Singapore’s contaminated fuel outbreak is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars and keep lawyers busy for years to come.

Fuel tester VPS has confirmed a total of 60 high sulphur fuel oil-consuming (HSFO) ships have been hit, with the fuel found to be contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons. All 60 ships bunkered with just two fuel suppliers in Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering hub, from a total of 12 delivery barges in a timeframe from mid-February to mid-March. In total VPS has identified 140,170 tonnes of contaminated fuel worth some $120m.

Malcolm Cooper, CEO of VPS, advised yesterday that the contaminated fuel remains in the supply chain and could potentially be reused or re-blended for use as a bunker fuel.

“The best mitigating measure to prevent the risk of receiving and using this fuel, is to test at the point of bunkering,” Cooper said, adding that standard ISO 8217 test methods are not sufficient to detect these contamination events.

VPS is recommending gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) screening as the most effective method of detecting chemical contaminants in bunker fuel including chlorinated hydrocarbons.

Jonathan Arneault, co-founder of another bunker checker, FuelTrust, compared the unfolding fuel scandal in Singapore to the one in Houston in 2018.

“Four years later, the lawsuits from Houston are still ongoing, and we’re just realising the financial impact that a single batch of bad fuel can have on the industry,” Arneault said.

Dr Ram Vis, a bunkering expert and owner of Viswa Labs, echoed the VPS call to use technology to better document and analyse risk in the supply chain.

“The current bunker quality problems give a feeling of déjà vu from an organic chlorides contamination in 2001, and more recently what we saw in Houston four years ago,” Vis said.

Splash first reported on the contaminated fuel issue in Singapore on March 9 including details of a number of ships losing power as a result of the poor fuel quality.

P&I club Skuld revealed in a recent update that it has recently received an increased number of P&I and hull claims related to HSFO stemmed at Singapore and which were found to be contaminated with chlorinated compounds resulting in damage to fuel injection pumps, injectors, filter elements and purifier systems.

“Organic Chlorides are not naturally present in crude sources and their presence in marine fuels is a cause of concern,” Skuld stated.

©Sam Chambers