AMERICAS: CASE BROUGHT OVER ALLEGED CONTAMINATED BUNKERS SUPPLIED AT BALBOA

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Meadway Shipping and Trading Singapore has filed a $2.1 million lawsuit against Integrity Bulk ApS (IBAS) after bunkers taken on in Panama are alleged to have caused all six injector pumps of a vessel’s main engine to seize.

In the complaint filed in the Baltimore Division of the District Court for Maryland, Meadway notes that IBAS sub-chartered the vessel, the M/V ASL Luna, with responsibility for fuelling the vessel. The sub-charter stated that: ‘IBAS shall be liable for any loss or damage to Vessel caused by the supply of unsuitable fuels and/or fuels which do not comply with the specifications and/or grades including the off-loading of unsuitable fuels and the supply of fresh fuels to the Vessel. ‘

On 26 June 2018, IBAS received a message, copied also to Meadway, from the vessel’s Master, who advised that fuel bunkered at Balboa, Panama, was unsuitable. In a subsequent message, on 29 June, the Master advised that all six fuel injector pumps of the main engine fuel were seized.

The fuel was then tested by a laboratory, which found that: ‘[t]otal phenol content adds up to 106 ppm (normally less than 100 ppm). Phenols have acidic content and can damage lubrication surfaces. Phenols also reduce the stability of the fuel.  Presence of phenols also indicates the possible use of shale oil as cutter stock. Shale oil reduces the ignition and combustion properties of the fuel.  The fuel was also found to have styrene glycol, alpha-pinene & limonene (tall oil components) & 2,4-dittertbutylphenol in the fuel.  These contaminants are not normally found in bunker fuels.’

Meadway notes that the fuel caused damage to the vessel of at least $2,154,999.84, which includes:

Loss of hire/hire paid to the owners while the vessel waited for the analysis of the bunker fuel;

Loss of hire/hired paid to the owners while the vessel remained idle waiting for its next employment;

A restraint on the vessel’s trading capabilities because of the suspect bunkers onboard;

Claimed loss of profit from the head owners.

IBAS is also said to have redelivered the vessel with less fuel than agreed. Meadway also had to purchase back from the owners on redelivery of the vessel some $163,878 worth of unsuitable fuel.

Meadway may also be required to debunker the suspect fuel from the vessel at an estimated cost of at least $300,000. Damage to the vessel and its engines has not been finally assessed but could be $500,000.

As previously reported, many vessels have reported operational problems in recent months after bunkering at US Gulf ports and Panama.

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