UK Club is warning
of increasing numbers of main engine failure related incidents and accidents following blackouts and says some may be caused by ships switching to low-sulfur fuel as they enter Emission Control Areas.
The protection and indemnity insurer said "a significant number of these claims for third party property damage, many of which were enormously expensive and in some cases amounted to millions of dollars could be attributed, directly or indirectly, to main engine failures or electrical blackouts.
"It is no exaggeration to suggest that main engine failures and blackouts tend to occur most regularly at the point in a voyage where the ship is at its most vulnerable. In confined waters or entering and leaving port, the stable loads which will generally prevail with the ship on passage are disturbed."
UK Club said "there is additionally some evidence that compliance with the low-sulphur fuel regulations and changing from one grade of fuel to another has exacerbated these problems.
"Reports from pilots, operating in emission control areas where fuel grade changes have been implemented, indicate that these problems have become quite widespread, noting that ships regularly seem to be experiencing power losses, invariably at critical times in their manoeuvres and which are attributed to ‘fuel problems.’"
Because regular bunker fuel is viscous, it is heated to make if flow more easily. Low-sulfur fuel flows much more easily, and has a lower flash point. When ships switch over from regular bunker fuel to low-sulfur fuel, they have to handle the transition carefully so the low-sulfur fuel is not too warm, lest the engine not fire properly.
In a recent Loss Prevention Bulletin
the club alerted members to warnings from the U.S. Coast Guard, which noted a marked increase in incidents after vessels lost propulsion and had linked many of these incidents to vessels operating on marine distillate fuels. - Chris Dupin