The use of low sulphur fuels can add up to USD20,000 to the operational expenditure of a ship per annum, according to Sacha Cornell, fleet manager at Norbulk Shipping.

Speaking during the Bunkering Challenges 2021 webinar, organised by the trade association Maritime Association Management Company (Maritime AMC), Cornell said: “I would guesstimate that the extra cost for additional sampling, onboard test kits, increased purifier maintenance, supply and installation of cermet piston rings, treatment chemicals, additional filtration equipment is in the region of between USD10,000 and USD20,000 per ship per annum.”

He said there are numerous cases in which very low sulphur fuel delivered onboard contains undesirable substances, resulting in problems relating to fuel stability, storage, handling treatment and processing.

Citing one example, Sacha Cornell recalled a vessel receiving a batch of very low sulphur fuel in Rotterdam. Ship and barge samples were taken and analysed, with the fuel recording a sediment reading well within the ISO parameters. But after 24 hours use, the ship’s purifier and fuel system were blocked, requiring engineers to carry out repetitive cleaning of purifiers and sludge discharge piping every 24 hours.

“Until the vessel had consumed all the bunkers, the crew had no option but to handle the problem onboard, which is not a good situation for any engineer or ship owner to be in, especially when you are unable to make a claim against bunker supplier,” he said.

Commenting on Cornell’s presentation, Kjeld Aabo, director new technologies at MAN Energy Solutions and chairman CIMAC Sub-Group WG 7 F – Fuel, said: “It is very sad to hear there still are issues but it is definitely not something which is being reported [to CIMAC and ISO].

“In the beginning of 2020 we saw quite an increase in cylinder liner scuffing and excessive wear is, of course, not acceptable. By August, we were back to normal,” he said. Aabo emphasised the importance of having ceramic-coated piston rings to better control wear on the liner surface.

Cornell also went on to outline the importance of bunker training and sampling procedures. “Crew training is vitally important…I find, unfortunately, a lot of times they’re [the crew] not fully aware of the implications if they do not get it right. There should be more education in this area.”

In summing up, conference chair, Maritime AMC director and bunker expert Ian Adams said: “It is vitally important we continue to train our crews and office staff on how to properly and safely bunker fuel in a post-IMO 2020 environment.”