The International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) has clamped down on maritime authorities across the board over their inaction regarding problems caused by contaminated fuels that have affected over a hundred of ships.
The contaminated fuels were initially delivered to ships in Houston in January this year, followed by Panama, Singapore and Malaysia in April, causing a myriad of technical and mechanical problems for ship owners and operators.
The contaminated fuel can lead to engine failures and associated losses of propulsion, placing the safety of the affected ship and crew at risk.
“We fear that this will become a global epidemic with the possibility of disastrous events,” Intertanko said in a critical review released on the topic. “One can say ‘so far’ as there is no sign of any coordinated effort to control and remove such contaminated fuels from the market.”
Namely, the association pointed to the fact that there has been no investigation on the causes of the problem, sources of contamination and the potential remaining contaminated fuel batches, or corrective actions whatsoever.
Nevertheless, some authorities have questioned in the media whether the events are being used by shipping as an attempt to delay the enforcement of the 2020 sulphur regulations.
Inretanko described the attempt as a deliberate diversion to “keep any guilty party out of the spotlight.”
“It is not the deadline of January 2020 which is the issue but the lack of interest and action by relevant authorities to stop contaminated fuels being sold and exported from ports under their jurisdiction. What is required is firm and quick action, not a discussion of important but unrelated subjects.”
“However, it is relevant for ship owners to express concern, considering that authorities may well show a similar lack of interest once the new 2020 low sulphur blends are released in the market and may prove to be incompatible with systems on board.”
The association believes that authorities and governments must take action and assume their responsibilities, at least to set up and oversee investigation mechanisms in case fuels delivered in their ports expose ships, their crews and the environment to serious risks.
“The source of the problem is not the ship owners, the ship managers or the ship operators, but rather an apparent complete lack of interest to control the quality of bunkers supplied to ships and a lack of initiative on the part of the authorities to introduce standard investigations when such events occur,” Intertanko insisted.
“The ultimate request from the Intertanko membership is that fuel blenders and fuel suppliers should be required to fully warrant the quality of their fuels.”
“Until the fuel supply industry and the authorities accept their share of responsibility, there is an obvious need for more public awareness in the media. A purely legal approach will not change the mindset of those who might deliberately put our crews, the environment, the ships and their cargoes in serious danger.”
Illustration; Image Courtesy: Flickr/ Louis Vest under CC 2.0 Generic license