Bunker Issues

In April 2014 the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore announced that as of 2017 it will be mandatory to use a mass flow metering system for marine fuel oil bunkering in Singapore. The purpose of the mass flow meter is to measure the quantity of bunkers which have been delivered and to avoid quantity disputes between ships and bunker suppliers. The authorities are taking these steps to safeguard Singapore's reputation as a top bunkering port in the world.

Until mass flow meters are compulsory in Singapore, it is therefore important to make sure that the chief engineer takes the necessary steps and precautions before, during and after delivery to ensure no air is introduced in to the bunkers. For further details of these measures, the UK P&I Club published a Loss Prevention Bulletin which was also produced by way of a leaflet prepared by Chris Fisher from Bunker Claims International a division of Brookes Bell.

A copy of the bulletin is available as a pdf on our website at the following link:


In anticipation of the Singapore regulations, the Club understands that a number of bunker suppliers are already using mass flow meters in Singapore. Although these suppliers might be more expensive, perhaps it is worth considering appointing them to avoid quantity disputes. In addition, and when it comes to choosing a supplier, the Singapore Port Authority has a list of accredited bunkers suppliers on its website. This list is closely monitored by the Singapore Port Authority as demonstrated by its recent decision to withdraw the licence of a supplier following the discovery of irregularities and wrongful declarations.

Owners and operators should be aware that, unlike Mass Flow Meters, normal flow meters will not detect the air introduced in the system and offer the appropriate protection against short delivery claims.

Bunker contracts very often contain draconian terms which make it difficult to challenge the quantities declared by the suppliers. In view of this, the Club recommends that a surveyor is appointed as soon as a problem arises and if possible before the delivery receipt is signed.

The following precautions should be taken when the bunker barge arrives alongside the receiving ship;

 1. Under the Singapore bunkering procedure safe access to and from the delivery barge is to be provided by the ship. This may comprise an accommodation ladder or pilot ladder or a combination of both. Safe access is important as a competent member of the ship's crew, preferably the Chief Engineer should attend on the barge to carry out measurement of all the barge tanks before the delivery starts. This should be done even if an independent Bunker Surveyor has been appointed.

2. All barge tanks, including any tanks declared empty or not intended for this delivery, must be measured and the temperature of the contents established. This must also include any slop or waste oil tanks. The drafts of the barge should also be obtained. It is important that when these measurements have been made, the barge Master and Chief Engineer sign a record of these measurements.

3. Opening of ullage hatches or tank hatches should provide an opportunity to observe any foam on the surface of the bunkers. Foam may also be detected on the ullage tape. If there is no foam then the oil level on the tape should appear distinct with no entrained bubbles. If by observation of the tape and the surface of the fuel you suspect entrained air then obtain a sample of the fuel by lowering a weighted bottle into the tank. Pour the sample into a clean glass jar and observe carefully for signs of foam or bubbles.

4. If these observations show entrained air the Chief Engineer should not allow the bunkering to start and contact his head office immediately. If the fuel is being provided by a charterer then they need to be made aware of the problem. Owners and/or charterers should then request for an investigation by an independent Bunker Surveyor. The barge Master should be issued with a letter of protest and a copy sent to the ship's agent. If the barge Master decides to disconnect from the ship and go to another location then the agent should immediately inform the port authority and try to establish where the barge has gone. All relevant times and facts should be recorded in the deck log book.

Before delivery starts

5. The Chief Engineer should discuss with the barge Master which barge tanks will be discharged during the bunkering and check that the quantity held in these tanks is consistent with the quantity to be delivered and that on the bunker delivery receipt.

6. If the Chief Engineer has not observed any entrained air during the initial barge survey it is still possible that air can be introduced to the barge tanks or the delivery line during the pumping period. The Singapore Bunkering Procedure SS 600 prohibits the use of compressed air, from bottles or compressors during the pumping period or during stripping and line clearing. It should be confirmed with the barge Master that he will follow this procedure (Reference SS600 paragraphs 1.12.10/11/12/13). Stripping of barge tanks can also introduce air and stripping should only be performed at the end of the delivery for a short period of time.

The barge Master must agree to inform the Chief Engineer when he intends to start stripping and when it has been completed.

7. It is important that the Chief Engineer measures and records the contents of all his bunker tanks before the delivery starts and if an independent surveyor is attending he should be asked to verify this record.

During the delivery

8. Ship's crew need to be alert during bunkering and check for the following signs:

• Bunker hose jerking or whipping around.

• Gurgling sound when standing in vicinity of bunker manifold.

• Fluctuations of pressure indication on manifold pressure gauge.

• Unusual noises from the bunker barge.

• Excessive bubbles observed on the sounding tape while taking sounding of bunkers in the ship's tanks.

9. These observations suggest that air is being introduced into the bunkers and the Chief Engineer should request the barge Master to stop the pumping operation. The Owner's office and/or the charterer need to be advised. The Chief Engineer should attend on the barge again to take measurements and record the contents of all the tanks and obtain the signature of the barge Master on this record. The contents of all the ship's bunker tanks need to be recorded. A letter of protest should be issued to the barge and the ship's agent advised. All pertinent details should be recorded in the ship's deck log book.

10. If the delivery is suspended for the above reason an independent surveyor should be appointed by Owners or Charterers to evaluate the situation and the agent should inform the port authority.

11. The bunker receipt should not be signed and no agreement reached with the barge Master on the quantity discharged or received. This should be checked and verified by an independent surveyor.

Again, if the barge departs then the time of departure needs to be recorded and the ship's agent advised.

After the delivery

12. Assuming that the delivery has been completed without incident the Chief Engineer should then re-measure ALL the barge tanks and perform calculations, using the approved barge calibration tables and the appropriate petroleum tables to establish the quantity discharged by the barge. He would also measure his bunker tanks and calculate the quantity received.

13. The barge outturn quantity should be similar to the ships received quantity.

14. If there is a significant difference (more than a few tons) between the barge outturn and the ships received figures then the Chief Engineer should repeat the measurements of the barge and ship tanks.

15. If the difference between ships received figure and barge figures is significant and this cannot be explained or resolved then Owners and Charterers should be informed and they should appoint an independent surveyor.

16. As a further check it would be prudent to re-measure ALL the ship's bunker tank contents about 12 hours

after the delivery to check for any apparent loss, but remember it would be very difficult to resolve any differences after the Chief Engineer has signed the bunker delivery receipt.

Extracted from the book by Chris Fisher: Bunkers: An Analysis of the Practical, Technical and Legal Issues and is reproduced with kind consent of the author.For more information, see the latest copy of Hellas Hilights available here:

Cedric Chatteleyn

Senior Claims Director