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Managing the transition to Low Sulphur Fuel

The maritime world is sailing towards a greener tomorrow. Maritime shipping already causes the least amount of pollution when compared to other means of transport, but new regulations levied by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are helping greatly to make the trade environmentally friendly. The IMO’s decision to levy new compliances regarding the transition to a Low-sulfur fuel was one of the turning points for the maritime industry. 
In late 2019, maritime companies were clouded with questions like –
– Will the transition to VLSFO get postponed?
– Would the modifications of ships be complete by 2020?
– Would the new VLSFO be available globally?
– How much would it cost?
– What would be the quality issues caused by transitioning to VLSFO

Fortunately, the transition to VLSFO was quite successful all over the globe. The maximum sulfur content in the new VLSFO fuel was only 0.50% mass. The compliant fuel mandated in 2020 is widely available, at around USD 80. It’s safe to say that the transition to VLSFO was smooth. The only exception was the quality changes that vessels might have to tackle. No matter how much suppliers and oil refiners try, adulteration happens and this can potentially cause damage to the vessel. Some VLSFO suppliers are allowing tests to be performed before selling the fuel to detect any contaminants present in the fuel.

Shipowners have to be careful in their bunker management operations, especially when it comes to VLSFO. In order to minimize commercial losses and operational difficulties due diligence should be given to ensure that the VLSFO bunker has been tested for WAT (Wax Appearance Temperature) / WDT (Wax Disappearance Temperature) prior to commencing use of this fuel.  Here are some factors vessel operators should examine without fail –

1) Changing viscosity between stems –
The purification temperature should be examined properly. There is no ISO standard for the viscosity of VLSFO and this can result in viscosity dropping below what is considered acceptable. Too low of viscosity can lead to wax formation and too high a temperature can result in sludge accumulation. Hence, it is essential to keep accurate injection and purification temperature.

2) Density –
When it comes to VLSFO, the gravity disc to be checked on a nomogram can vary from 0.85 to 0.96, which could be a lot. This can increase the volumetric size of the stem to be ordered. With lower-end density, the volume is bound to increase. Hence, it’s vital to keep density in check, or it can lead to insufficient storage space and financial losses.

3) Total Sediment Potential (TSP) –
Total Sediment Potential levels vary from situation to situation. If the TSP is high, the amount of sludge formation increases in the purifier. Due to this, the purifier requires to be cleaned more frequently.

Despite these compliance issues, the transition to VLSFO is going to be a big step towards protecting our environment. Alphard Maritime always ensures they use Low Sulphur Fuel to lower environmental pollution. We are dedicated to taking all measures to make sure our environment is protected. The transition from traditional fuel to VLSFO was indeed an impactful measure by IMO, but wondering what’s coming next is exciting!