Cockett's Colin Holloway discussed the increase in sulfur off-specs at IBIA's Malta conference on Thursday. Image Credit: Ship & Bunker
The increase in HSFO demand driven by the use of scrubbers may be part of the reason behind a rise in off-specification bunker claims over excess sulfur content, according to Cockett Group.
Some 38% of the claims seen by Cockett so far this year have been over sulfur content, Colin Holloway, the firm's global head of technical, said at the IBIA Mediterranean Energy and Shipping Conference in Malta on Thursday.
That figure is up from 18% in 2021, 19% in 2020 and 18% in 2019.
The Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp hub saw a large concentration of the sulfur claims.
Holloway speculated that changes in how bunker supply infrastructure is operated in response to increased HSFO demand may be part of the reason for the change.
HSFO took up 27.7% of Singapore's sales in the first three months of the year, up from 24.3% a year earlier.
"A lot of operators have now gone back to using high sulfur fuel oil, and they're using the same barge for high sulfur fuel oil as they are for very low sulfur fuel oil, so that could probably be a reason," Holloway said.
Chris Turner, bunker quality and claims manager at Integr8 Fuels, suggested the price rises seen this year may also be part of the picture.
VLSFO producers coming up with blends closer to the 0.50% sulfur cap as a means of cutting costs could be part of the reason for some accidentally coming in over the limit, he said.
"What we've seen is the average sulfur in ARA has crept up from around 0.47% to 0.49% in the past 12-18 months, and particularly since the price of crude started to climb," Turner said.
"That's all down to blending -- people are blending that much closer to the 0.50% level."