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21 Jun 2021

Fuel flashpoints: is your bunker supply an explosive issue?


An emerging issue

In recent months an intersection between two of this century’s existential threats, climate change and COVID, has caused concern in the shipping industry. The IMO has imposed much stricter emissions targets on shipping, resulting in the widespread adoption of new low sulphur fuel oils. The world-wide lockdowns to suppress the COVID pandemic have destroyed demand for aviation and other light fuels. In response, suppliers are using these surplus, lighter fractions to blend marine fuel and the result is that the supply of some low sulphur bunkers has been reported to have a much lower flashpoint than the SOLAS ChII regulatory minimum of 60˚C.

Voices within the bunker supply industry are advocating a review of the flashpoint threshold and are even questioning the viability of using flashpoint as a measure of risk. Is this pragmatism or expediency? And how should charterers respond to a report of a bunker delivery having a lower than permissible flashpoint?

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