MPA Completes Investigations Into Bunker Fuel Contamination In Singapore Port

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) was notified on 14 March 2022 that a number of ships had been supplied with High Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) containing high concentration levels of Chlorinated Organic Compounds (COC) (1,2-Dichloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene) in the Port of Singapore.

MPA has since completed its investigations into the matter and presented the Key Findings

MPA updated on 5 May 2022 that the source of the affected HSFO fuel containing high concentration levels of COC, supplied by Glencore Singapore Pte Ltd (Glencore) and PetroChina International (Singapore) Pte Ltd (PetroChina) was traced to fuel loaded on a tanker at the Port of Khor Fakkan, United Arab Emirates. Forensic fingerprinting analysis of the fuel samples taken from the tanker showed a match with samples taken from several affected ships that had taken HSFO from both Glencore and PetroChina.

MPA also established that both Glencore and PetroChina, as MPA-licensed bunker suppliers, had carried out tests on the fuel supplied to ships prior to their sale based on the international standards of petroleum products of fuel – International Organization for Standardization 8217.

Bunker Fuel Contamination
Image for representation purpose only

MPA found no evidence that Glencore or PetroChina had intentionally contaminated the HSFO.
Action was taken against Glencore for contravention of MPA’s Bunkering Licence Terms and Conditions

Between 21 and 23 March, 2022, the fuel oil testing laboratory engaged by Glencore reported results showing that the samples taken from the parcels of fuel oil Glencore purchased, contained concentrations of COCs that ranged from approximately 2,000 ppm to 15,000 ppm. COCs are not commonly present in bunker fuel, especially at such elevated levels.

MPA’s investigation found that despite this, Glencore continued to supply bunkers blended with the fuel purchased that was contaminated with high levels of COC to vessels in the Port of Singapore from 22 March 2022 to 1 April 2022.

By doing so, Glencore contravened the terms and conditions of its Bunkering Licence (Bunker Supplier) in failing to ensure that no bunkers supplied by it were contaminated. Glencore was given the opportunity to comment on these findings before MPA finalised its conclusions.

A total of 24 vessels were supplied with the affected fuel by Glencore from 22 March to 1 April 2022, and at least 3 vessels have reported issues with their fuel pumps and engines.

MPA will suspend Glencore’s Bunkering Licence (Bunker Supplier) for two months with effect from 18 August 2022. MPA has also asked Glencore to improve its internal procedures to ensure that prompt action is taken in future when it becomes aware of, or reasonably suspects, any irregularity in fuel quality.

MPA’s investigation also revealed that PetroChina had stopped delivery of the contaminated fuel promptly by 19 March 2022 once it received its own test results that the fuel it supplied was contaminated with COC. MPA has therefore decided not to take any action against PetroChina.

MPA has reminded all licensed bunker suppliers to adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of their licences. MPA takes a serious view of contraventions of the bunker supplier licence terms and conditions, and will not hesitate to suspend or cancel the relevant licences, where necessary. MPA has also reminded licensees to immediately report to MPA any irregularity in any bunker operation or contravention of any provision under the terms and conditions of their bunker supplier licence.

MPA’s quality fuel assurance measures comprise the Bunker Quality Inspection System (BQIS) and the Intensified Bunker Quality Checks (IBQC). The BQIS tests the quality of bunkers supplied to vessels while the IBQC tests bunkers carried by bunker tankers before supply to vessels. While the occurrence of COC is rare in bunkers, MPA has now included COC to be tested under both BQIS and IBQC.

MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association will co-chair an industry expert group to establish a list of chemicals to be tested and their corresponding concentration limits. The expert group is expected to make recommendations to strengthen the quality assurance of bunkers delivered in Singapore.

The Chemical Metrology Division from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority, the International Council on Combustion Engines and the International Bunker Industry Association have expressed support for MPA’s efforts to strengthen fuel quality checks and have confirmed their participation in the expert group. In addition, experts from testing laboratories and other relevant bodies will also be involved in the expert group.

MPA, in consultation with the Standards Development Organisation, will also continue to share relevant information with the ISO, as part of the ISO’s ongoing review of the ISO 8217 standards.

Press Release

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