'Bad Bunkers' Accusations Need More Context: IBIA

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Wednesday February 15, 2023

Industry body IBIA has set out the wider context it believes accusations of 'bad bunkers' should be seen in when assessing the industry's overall performance.

In a recent letter to maritime publication Lloyd's List, IBIA Director Unni Einemo said there were 'some misconceptions and narratives that aren't helpful' in the discourse around bunker quality and quantity disputes.

"At IBIA, we do not dispute that bunker suppliers are responsible for providing the right quality and quantity of fuels," Einemo said in the letter.

"IBIA is also calling for more ports to implement well-designed bunker licensing systems with effective and pro-active enforcement to improve bunker market conditions, as we have seen in Singapore."

But data on bunker quality suggests the industry meets high standards overall, Einemo argued.

"Most of the time, ships receive fuels that meet relevant quality specifications and use them without incident," she said.

"That doesn't make the headlines; only off-specs do.

"Only a small share of residual marine fuels tested globally test off-spec against ISO 8217 parameters.

"During 2021 and 2022, quarterly off-spec figures for VLSFOs from one fuel testing agency ranged from 1.3% to 2.4%, and averaged around 4% for all types of residual marine fuel grades.

"Within the global average, there are regional differences with some ports and regions performing significantly worse than others on critical parameters like sulphur (Marpol compliance) and sediments (an indicator of fuel stability).

"The global figure also includes off-specs that aren't critical to ship safety, for example slight exceedances of water and density limits.

"There's still a commercial issue, but statistics can paint an overly alarming picture if you don't know the full story."

Einemo also suggested that quality disputes do not typically stem from deliberate malpractice.

"Complaints about the bunker industry and demands for more accountability from the supply side are indeed understandable, but consider this: do you think bunker suppliers deliberately expose themselves to potential quality claims by selling bunkers that they know are off-spec and/or contaminated with something that will cause harm?" she said.

"Taking into account the time, effort and potentially significant costs they face from such quality disputes, and the reputational damage, it is more likely that these unfortunate incidents are for the most part accidental."

To read the letter in full, click here.