IBIA supports industry with best practice guidance to assure bunker fuel quality

IBIA supports industry with best practice guidance to assure bunker fuel quality

The International Bunker Industry Association is proud to present the first edition of our “Best practice guidance for suppliers for assuring the quality of bunkers delivered to ships” which has been developed in response to a call from the International Maritime Organization. This is the first time a concerted effort has been made to address procedures to safeguard and maintain bunker fuel quality control throughout the entire supply chain; from the production of bunkers all the way through to delivery to ships, in a single, comprehensive[i] guidance document.

Next week, the 72nd session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) will consider both draft best practice guidance for fuel oil purchasers/users; and for fuel oil providers. IBIA contributed to the draft best practice for fuel oil purchasers/users submitted to MEPC 72, and believes that IBIA’s submission containing best practice guidance for suppliers will complement it. These best practice documents are intended to assist in assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to, and used onboard ships, with respect to both compliance with the MARPOL requirements and the safe and efficient operation of the ship.

Unni Einemo, who has coordinated IBIA’s input to the two best practice documents submitted to MEPC 72, says: “The focus of IBIA’s draft best practice guidance is to ensure the quality of bunkers delivered to ships meet the agreed purchase specifications and applicable global and local regulations. While the vast majority of bunkers delivered meet these requirements, quality can be unintentionally adulterated at various stages in the supply chain. The guidance seeks to identify and promote best practices to mitigate quality risks throughout the entire chain.”

She adds: “Combined with the best practice guidance for buyers/purchasers submitted to MEPC 72, and the draft best practice for Member States/coastal States being developed by the MEPC Correspondence Group on Fuel Oil Quality, which IBIA also participates in, all aspects of quality control will be addressed. Hopefully this will help all stakeholders in ensuring better understanding of what it takes to ensure that ships are provided with bunker fuels that meet their operational requirements. This could become even more critical as of 2020, when we are likely to see a range of unfamiliar fuel blends that will require due diligence from all parties.”

IBIA’s draft best practice guidance for suppliers has drawn on information in international and local standards dealing specifically with marine fuel oil quality, procedures to maintain quality control in the supply chain, and procedures for delivery to ships and associated sampling and documentation. It has also drawn on published and unpublished work from a range of experts and been reviewed by multiple industry stakeholders.

In drafting the guidance, IBIA has also taken into account commercial realities and the fact that local standards and regulations vary, recognising that the best practice will also be subject to variations.

The guidance on best practice for suppliers is ambitious, and many bunker suppliers would struggle to adhere to various aspects of these best practices owing to a variety of factors, including but not limited to local or commercial constraints and a lack of cooperation from other parties. Nevertheless, this best practice guidance could contribute to improving standards and reduce the risk of bunkers delivered to ships failing to meet the buyer’s quality specifications.

IBIA is now calling on our members to implement the best practices and provide feedback.

“We want to know if the guidance is workable, and what can be improved,” says Einemo, adding: “We are open to revising the document in due course in response to constructive feedback and evolving needs.”

Einemo concludes: “We are extremely grateful to all those who have helped us with the best practice guidance, which included independent bunker suppliers and traders, oil majors, general experts in fuel quality and quality control issues, and legal experts. We hope it will be welcomed by the bunker industry in general, and also by shipping organisations and member states at IMO, either in its own right, or as a solid basis for developing IMO best practice guidance for suppliers.”

IBIA encourages members who haven’t already received it by e-mail to get in touch to obtain a copy of the best practice guidance and to send their feedback to unni@ibia.net

[i] Elements covered in IBIA’s Best practice guidance for suppliers for assuring the quality of bunkers delivered to ships:

  • Quality control during production of bunkers
  • Quality control in the supply chain
  • Cargo transport, storage and transfer
  • Delivery to ship (bunkering operations)
  • Representative Sampling in the supply chain and during delivery
  • Documentation
  • Contracting
  • Dispute resolution
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