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P&I incident How not to do it – Bunker operations

Oil slick can be seen between the vessel and the quay.
A Member’s vessel – a bulk carrier – recently had a spill of bunker oil in a dock area and clean up costs alone amounted to around USD 130,000. The vessel was conducting an internal transfer of heavy fuel oil from a deep tank to a settling tank and as a result the bunker line became pressurised. Whilst ordinarily this might not have been a problem, the deck manifold for the bunker line had not been closed. Consequently fuel escaped onto the starboard side of the deck and via the scuppers into the dock. It was estimated that a quantity of 5 to 10 MT of oil found its way overboard and the slick spread,
contaminating the walls of four berths. A number of barges and other vessels in the vicinity of these berths were also contaminated. The vessel’s discharge operations were temporarily suspended.
Clean up was made difficult and protracted because heavy fuel oil is persistent in nature, meaning that it naturally dissipates slowly. Claims from stevedores and barge owners for idle time, as a result of the spill and clean up, are currently being reviewed. The Master is also to be fined. The above incident demonstrates how simple deficiencies and a small amount of oil spilled can have significant consequences. Before any bunkering operation, including the internal transfer of oil, procedures must be followed to ensure that any potential deficiencies are rectified before it is too late. On this occasion the importance of blanking off manifold connections not in use and plugging the scuppers became regrettably obvious.
Spill contained by the use of booms whilst being treated with dispersant.


Gard News is published quarterly by Assuranceforeningen Gard, Arendal Norway.