Article by Chris Clifford
Larry Rumbol looks at the importance of fuel analysis and how it will ensure your yacht operates at its peak performance levels, no matter where it is cruising.
For over 47 years, Spectro | Jet-Care have been providing a dedicated and comprehensive analysis service to the aviation, marine and industrial markets around the world.
There are a few things in life that cost an appreciable amount that we never get to see or touch. Insurance is one but a far more tactile thing is fuel. In our cars we hear it go into the tank and probably smell it and occasionally get a vestige of it on our hands. It is the same with superyacht bunkering. Just like cars we blindly (trustingly) have faith that the golden liquid is what it says on the (bunker) delivery note. With cars it is indeed a rare occasion – front page news even, that the fuel was off spec. For yachts, this is sadly not that uncommon. In fact, off-spec or contaminated fuel is not totally the woe of superyachts as heavy fuel for large commercial vessels is also not uncommonly off-spec.
If only it were that easy…
If we go back three years there was a step change in the fuel sulphur limit for all shipping as of January 1st 2020. This is commonly known as IMO 2020 Sulphur Regs. Sulphur being limited as of that date to 0.1% (1000ppm). Pre-2012 heavy fuel had a 4.5% global limit. Heavy fuel (HFO) at that time was a residual fuel, almost what was left in a barrel of crude oil after all the other distillates were refined.
The mindset of offloading suspect fuel is a throwback to the earlier times of poor quality residual heavy fuel. The spec was loose, it was black, the consistency of set honey and it was just plain residual and engines just burned it, period. Such were the mechanical consequences of off-spec fuel that a legal profession evolved – namely Bunker Claim lawyers. There is even a well supported bunker industry association (IBIA) whose very ‘raison d’etre’ is fuel quality, supply and marketing the same.
Superyacht fuel, a special case but why?
Many superyachts, by their very nature, journey to new locations and new horizons and consequently need to bunker fuel but in much smaller quantities than commercial vessels. Often this is by road tanker or barge and if the location is new, and the yacht unknown – there is the potential opportunity for off-spec or contaminated fuel to be delivered along with the correct spec fuel. It may not even be intentional, it may just be poor housekeeping in a faraway and remote location. Think about what one actually does with off-spec or contaminated fuel and one can foresee the eagerness to dispose of it.
Not all yachts are of a size where fuel can be isolated before use and the speed of their lab report is ever more important. Others can, however, quarantine until the lab report returns. Commercial ships fill collapsible 5 litre containers (cubetainers) with a sample and these are kept on board in accordance with strict IMO rules. Few superyachts have the spare space for this and all are not subject to commercial rules. Realising this, Spectro designed a bespoke superyacht fuel sampling and testing system. It is known as the Fuel Verification Kit.
The power of three
The Fuel Verification Kit comprises of three 500ml fuel sample bottles each with a tamper proof and unique numbered tag. When the supplier arrives at quay or shipside they are made aware that these tamper proof samples will be taken. It is suggested that the process is photographed as well as the tag numbers recorded and shared. In itself this very process can prevent off-spec fuel being knowingly delivered as the proof of where it came from is unequivocal.
One of the three bottles is sent to the Spectro Lab (analysis pre-paid with the kit), the other two remain on board. Should lab analysis prove the fuel off-spec or contaminated with bacteria there are two remaining verified samples on board. One can be sent to the supplier’s lab of choice and the remaining one stays on board should litigation require further testing.
There is another advantage to these three bottles. Superyachts visit spectacular locations rightly protected by environmental regulations. Eager Port Authorities may request sight of bunker delivery notes and take an interest in the ‘actual’ fuel Sulphur level. It has been known for some to take a sample and request the yacht to await the result. Having a proven verified sample on board with a lab report shows true due diligence in fuel husbandry and experience shows that authorities respect such care and are happy to accept this evidence.
Spectro | Jet-Care have three state of the art international laboratories and are considered the go-to lab for superyacht fuel, oil, hydraulic and fluid analysis.
For more details visit www.spectro-oil.com