News & events



IBIA Pointers for Problem Fuels: What Should Ship Owners Do?

A significant number of ships have experienced serious operational problems – chiefly sticking/seizing fuel pumps and in some cases filter blockages – after lifting bunker fuels from the US Gulf region since late March and during April/May. Most cases have reportedly been caused by intermediate fuel oils (IFOs) bunkered in the Houston area, though there are indications that similar problems have been caused by fuels bunkered in Panama.

At this stage there are differing views as to the root cause of this problem and how to mitigate the various risks. Several fuel testing agencies have reported that the fuels met ISO 8217 specifications during routine testing against the standard. It was only when vessels began encountering problems they began forensic-level investigative fuel analysis. Reports from testing agencies have identified certain commonalities between these fuels indicating they contain chemical contaminants from non-petroleum sources. The most commonly reported findings include phenols and Tall Oil but the reports from testing agencies are not conclusive and their investigations are continuing. 

It seems almost certain, however, that the fuels contravene Clause 5 in ISO 8217 and Regulation 18.3 of MARPOL Annex VI which broadly state that fuels shall not contain any material in a concentration that adversely affects the performance of machinery.

Is This New?

Over the past 30 years there have been episodes around the world where ship owners faced a surge in quality issues. Usually, the origin of problem fuels has been limited to a specific geographic area. Unfortunately, the nature of the contamination can often be so obscure that no amount of routine analysis will make the defect apparent until the fuel proves defective in use and the subsequent detailed forensic examination identifies the cause.

In many of these episodes, the source of the contaminant is never adequately identified, but in summary, the root cause was a lack of control of the quality of cutter stock used in the marine pool.

IBIA has published a “Best practice guidance for suppliers for assuring the quality of bunkers delivered to ships” a nd we believe that by following the recommendation in in Chapter 4, in particular 4.2 – Quality control during production of bunkers and 4.3 – Quality control in the supply chain, would improve control of the blend components used and help to prevent such cases.

What Should We Do?

As an industry association we are obliged to address the concerns of our ship owner members. In this instance, a useful question to address for ship owners would be “What should I do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to me?”

It is difficult to answer this precisely when it hasn’t yet been universally agreed what this”is; however, here are some pointers:

  • If you have recently bunkered in the Houston area or Panama, it is strongly recommended to get a solid overview of the quality of the fuel prior to using it.
  • If you do use it without going beyond routine ISO 8217 quality tests, pay close attention to fuel oil system components, in particular fuel pumps and filters.
  • Consult technical managers/chief engineers within your own company and/or from other technical service providers, including your bunker supplier(s).



Source: International Bunker Industry Association



Preventing pollution from liners and ferries has become a priority for Croatian government and shipping companies involved in the passengers’ transport in the Adriatic.  Paper covers implementation of international legal instruments (like revised Annex VI of MARPOL with reduction of global sulphur limits in fuel oil on board ships by January 2020) and EU law (Regulation 2015/757 on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon dioxide emissions from maritime transport). Their application to Croatian passenger fleet, analysis of various aspects of marine and air pollution prevention measures: control of air emissions by types of diesel fuel and possible implementation of scrubber equipment, potential introduction of LNG as fuel in passenger traffic, measures related to ships’ recycling and IHM certification, acceptable use of antifouling coating on passenger ships, cavitation sludge treatment and reception facilities in Croatian ports.


Programe and Registration Form can be obtained here:




Happy Easter


The Economic Impact of the Croatian Shipping Industry, Oxford Economics

This report provides an assessment of the impact of the Croatian shipping industry on the economy of the Republic of Croatia. It has been prepared for the Republic of Croatia’s Ministry of the Sea, Transport and Infrastructure and Croatian Shipowners’ Association.

This study sets out the economic benefits supported by the Croatian shipping industry, in terms of its GDP contribution and the jobs it sustains.


Study and the presentation can be downloaded here.

1. Study


2. Presentation




Interferry CEO Mike Corrigan explains how the trade association’s “stronger together” mission is helping to shape outcomes on the pressing issues of safety, security and the environment.

Last April I took the helm of Interferry after 14 years in leadership positions with Canada’s BC Ferries – the last five as president and CEO.  The past ten months in my new role have reinforced a core conviction forged during my previous experience in the industry.  Both as an operator and long-time Interferry director, I saw that our members are stronger when we work together to embrace opportunities, overcome challenges and share our knowledge for the benefit of the entire ferry sector.  This belief is now being reaffirmed as the association further builds on its mission as the industry’s global voice.    

A prime example came in October at our 42nd annual conference in Split, Croatia, with the introduction of our new Domestic Ferry Safety Committee.  Formed to support developing nations, the committee’s first task is to identify drivers for change and carry out a risk assessment.  We will then draw up an action plan to reach out to potential collaborators and funding partners.  The initiative has been prompted by statistics showing that 93% of fatalities occur on domestic routes and have totalled at least 60,000 deaths over the past 50 years – a toll that is almost certainly under-estimated.  Of the known fatalities, no less than two-thirds of these occurred in just seven countries, notably in the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia. There could hardly be a stronger case for pulling together in the common cause of safety.           

Meanwhile Interferry is working closely with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to identify required, relevant and realistic changes to current fire protection regulations following a string of fire incidents on ro-ro and ro-pax ships in recent years.  Our initial findings indicate that most of the fire risk relates to the cargo carried rather than the vessel itself.  It’s become particularly clear that electrical connections – such as those for reefer units – need special attention, but there are also valid concerns on the functionality and effectiveness of traditional detection and extinguishing systems. Several of our members are developing new internal practices, which will form the basis for a second round of Interferry fire safety best practice guidance during 2018.

Alongside this, Interferry has now launched a Security Committee, which will likewise develop a best practices guide over the long term.  The committee is comprised of company security officers from a dozen operators and has been established with the primary function of facilitating experience-sharing among members.  To an even greater degree than other major issues such as safety and environmental regulations, security measures will need to be more fully addressed on a risk basis, and in close cooperation with local and national authorities. We do not expect any universal new requirements from the international regulator, but we will position ourselves to help members better engage in discussions on voluntary measures and local requirements. 

The environment is another area where strength in unity continues to be a guiding principle in protecting the ferry sector’s interests while working to ensure the well-being of Planet Earth.  I’m pleased to say that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is making good progress on developing short, medium and long-term requirements on greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping – helped along the way with sector-specific interventions from Interferry thanks to our consultative status.

Some impatient countries, spearheaded in particular by the European Union (EU), are threatening to impose regional measures.  In November the European institutions agreed to hold off making their own regulations while they wait to see what the IMO decides during 2018. The ferry sector is relatively well placed to meet future requirements, as our frequent port calls will facilitate the use of alternative fuels and will also enable the benefit of electric power from shore installations. Our main concern is the recent discussion on mandatory slow steaming, which may well be a solution for some deep-sea segments, but certainly not for the bustling ferry business. 

The background to all this stems from some ten years ago, when the EU member states pushed other IMO members to agree to binding requirements on reducing CO2 emissions.  This was to be linked to some form of market-based mechanism such as an Emission Trading System (ETS).  At that time, the EU’s forceful campaigning back-fired quite dramatically with developing countries blocking any agreement on resolutions of this kind.  Several years without constructive dialogue ensued, but since then we have nevertheless seen the successful introduction of technical energy efficiency requirements for new ships and operational monitoring of fuel consumption.

Supported by several other industrialized nations, the EU bloc is again pushing the IMO, albeit with the ‘wait and see what happens in 2018’ proviso.  As such the EU side has drawn a line in the sand – either there are ambitious binding global requirements effective from 2023, or they will unilaterally impose requirements for all ships calling at EU ports.  It should be noted, however, that the 2013 global revolt to their inclusion of international aviation in an EU-run ETS left a distinct impression on some of the European institutions and led to their November decision not to include shipping in an ETS – at least for now. 

As I have indicated, from a ferry industry point of view, we are not overly concerned with the impact of future climate regulations. Our members have improved their efficiency dramatically over the past generation of ferries and huge strides are still being taken, such as the rapidly increasing electrification of ferries. Most would agree that, when the dust has settled, there will be a cost associated to CO2 emissions, but the general prediction is that such costs will be in the order of magnitude of the normal fluctuations in fuel prices.  Although that is not exactly welcome news for the bottom line, such costs are manageable.

The initial discussions on speed reductions for ships are more worrying.  The main attraction of ferries as a mode of transport is that we can compete with highways and aviation.  Slowing down has, on average, been proven as a good way to temporarily mitigate overcapacity in deep sea trades, but it would be very challenging to the ferry business model.

Furthermore, in a segment where operating speeds for conventional ferries range from 12 to 26 knots, it is hard to envisage an equitable way of mandating slower speeds in our particular sector.  Interferry, with ample support from its members, has spent a lot of resources trying to make the existing requirements of the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) work as intended.  If there is any hard-earned lesson from that exercise, it is that – unlike tankers, containerships and bulkers – the ferry industry is far too diverse to be treated as a homogenous entity.

We will continue to engage with the IMO and the EU to help them pull the right levers for significant CO2 reductions over the coming decades… but by working together with our members and the authorities, we will make it very clear that one size does not fit all.

Published in the January 2018 edition of Marine News.

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News and events

IBIA Pointers for Problem Fuels: What Should Ship Owners Do?

A significant number of ships have experienced serious operational problems – chiefly sticking/seizing fuel pumps and in some cases filter blockages – after lifting bunker fuels from the US Gulf region since late March and during April/May. Most cases have reportedly been caused by intermediate fuel oils (IFOs) bunkered in the Houston area, though there are indications that similar problems have been caused by fuels bunkered in Panama.



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