Mpa Completes Its Investigation into the Bunker Fuel Contamination in the Singapore Port

20 March 2002

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has completed its investigations into the bunker fuel contamination in the Port of Singapore. The MPA investigations began in mid-November 2001 following reports of vessels being supplied with contaminated bunker fuel. Its investigations sought to identify the parties responsible for supplying contaminated ship's fuel and to trace the source of the contamination.

The investigations covered the collection and testing of oil samples taken from bunker tankers alleged to have supplied contaminated fuel to affected ships and from oil terminals. The MPA also conducted interviews with cargo officers of bunker tankers, bunker suppliers and operators, and road tanker operators. Staff of Meridian Petroleum and Bunkering Pte Ltd, the operator of the two bunker tankers, namely, MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis, involved in the sale of contaminated bunkers to ships were also interviewed.

Outcome of the Investigations

Contaminants Detected

Loading into Receiving Vessels

The MPA had received 14 complaints from owners/operators of vessels that had allegedly received contaminated fuel. Twelve out of these 14 complainant-vessels were supplied bunkers from six suppliers using the two bunker tankers, namely, MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis. The remaining two vessels were supplied bunkers by MT Heng Chang and MT S Dua.

Some of the oil samples retained from bunkers supplied by MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis showed presence of the contaminants namely, di-methyl esters of hexanedioic acid (DMA), trichloroethylene, and tetrachloroethylene. The retained oil samples for three affected vessels, namely, Prigipos, Sea Wind and Bussara Naree were tested and found to be contaminated. No contaminants were found from the retained samples that were available for testing from the other nine vessels.

As for the two vessels supplied fuel by MT Heng Chang and MT S Dua, samples for each ship were tested. One sample, which was tested by the MPA, turned out to be free of contaminants. Another sample tested (for the other ship), which was retained and sent for testing by the supplier and witnessed by the buyer's representative, also showed no presence of contaminants.

Loading from Terminals

No contaminants were found in the oil samples retained by MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis for fuel loaded from the terminals including Vopak, Oiltanking, Caltex, and Tankstore. The oil samples lifted from the shore tanks of the terminals also showed no presence of contaminants. Hence, the terminals are in the clear.

Loading from Other Bunker Tankers

No contaminants were found in the samples retained by bunker tankers MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis for loadings from other bunker tankers over three months from September to November 2001.

Loading from Road Tankers

The MPA's investigation revealed that during the period September 2001 to November 2001 the two bunker fuel tankers, MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis, had on 15 occasions received bunker fuel from two barges, viz; SB 228B and SB 278I operated by Regency Petroleum Trading Pte Ltd and Pegasus Maritime (S) Pte Ltd respectively. During the same period, both the barges had received oil from road tankers at Pasir Panjang Wharves. Besides carrying oil, the road tankers were also used for collection and transportation of waste oil from shipyards and motor workshops. Under the law, waste oil should be treated and disposed of at waste oil treatment and disposal facilities licensed by the Ministry of the Environment (ENV). The MPA's investigation showed that the waste oil collected by the road tankers could have been delivered to the barges, thereby contaminating the bunker fuel on the barges.

Actions by the MPA

Meridian Petroleum and Bunkering, MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis

On 8 Feb 2002, the MPA cancelled the Bunker Supplier and Bunker Craft Operator Licences of Meridian Petroleum and Bunkering Pte Ltd. It also cancelled the Harbour Craft Licences of MT Alexandrea and the MT Memphis on the same day. As shown by our investigations, Meridian and the two bunker tankers were involved in the sale of contaminated bunkers to ships. They had breached the terms and conditions of their bunkering licences. Essentially, they had failed to ensure that bunkers supplied in the Singapore port conform to or were better than the ISO 8217 standards as stipulated under the Singapore Standard: Code of Practice for Bunkering by Bunker Barges/Tankers (SS CP60). After careful evaluation of the letters of explanation from Meridian, the MPA found no grounds to reinstate the licences. The decision to cancel the licences was reaffirmed.

Owner and Masters of MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis

The MPA would also be prosecuting the owner and masters of the two Singapore-registered bunker tankers for contravening the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Act (Cap 243) by not maintaining the Oil Record Books as required and for contravening the Dangerous Goods, Petroleum and Explosives (DGPE) Regulations for carrying out ship-to-ship transfer of bunkers without approval.

Five Other Bunker Suppliers

The other five bunker suppliers who had allegedly supplied contaminated bunkers using MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis were asked on 8 Feb 02 to show cause on why their Bunker Supplier Licences should not be cancelled. The five suppliers, which are Elf Trading, Tramp Oil, Bomin Bunker, Wired Bunkering and The Barrel Oil, gave their explanations by 20 Feb 02.

The MPA suspended the Bunker Supplier Licences of Elf Trading, Tramp Oil and Bomin Bunker for two months with effect from 16 Mar 02 after careful evaluation. They were responsible for supplying contaminated bunkers to three affected vessels - Prigipos, Sea Wind and Bussara Naree. They had failed to be vigilant and to exercise due diligence in the bunkering operations carried out by their contractor i.e. Meridian Petroleum.

The other two companies - Wired Bunkering and The Barrel Oil - were each issued a 'Letter of Caution'. No contamination was detected from the retained samples available for testing from the complainant vessels. They have been warned to be more vigilant in future bunkering operations done by their contractors.

Wooden Barges SB 228B and SB 278I, Pegasus Maritime and Regency Petroleum

Regency Petroleum Trading Pte Ltd and Pegasus Maritime (S) Pte Ltd, operators of wooden barges SB 228B and SB 278I, respectively, were also asked on 8 Feb 02 to show cause on why their Licences as Bunker Craft Operators should not be cancelled.

After careful evaluation of their letters of explanation, the MPA cancelled Regency Petroleum's licence with effect from 15 Mar 02 for repeated infringements of the Terms and Conditions of its Bunker Craft Operator Licence. It had allowed an unlicensed bunker supplier i.e. the hirer of its wooden tanker SB 228B, to carry out unauthorised transfers of oil cargoes to MT Alexandrea and MT Memphis on 14 occasions. Regency Petroleum Trading had also failed to maintain a log on the bunker transfers carried out by the craft. The Harbour Craft Licence for SB 228B was cancelled.

Pegasus Maritime's Bunker Craft Operator Licence was suspended for one month because it had allowed an unlicensed bunker supplier i.e. the hirer of its wooden tanker SB 278I, to carry out an unauthorised transfer of oil cargo to MT Memphis on one occasion.

In addition, Regency Petroleum Trading and Pegasus Maritime would be prosecuted for failing to seek the MPA Port Master's approval for carrying out Ship-to-Ship transfer operations for bunkers by their craft.

Actions by ENV

ENV prohibits the blending of waste oil into bunker fuel. ENV carries out enforcement checks on all licensed waste oil collectors to ensure that they comply with ENV's requirements on proper handling and disposal of waste oil. ENV will continue to work closely with MPA to ensure that waste oil generators or licensed collectors do not dispose of waste oil via blending into bunker fuel.

As a Party to the Basel Convention, Singapore has put in place legislation and procedures to regulate the export, import and transit of hazardous wastes in accordance with the provisions of the Basel Convention. Singapore has not granted permit to any company to import waste oil or waste solvents, which include tri- and tetra-chloroethylene, into Singapore for disposal. ENV will not hesitate to take tough actions against any parties violating our laws.

Results of the Investigation

Capt Khong Shen Ping, Director (Port), MPA, said, "The results of our investigations have shown that the bunker contamination problem is not widespread. While the ships affected -14 reported cases to MPA - form a small percentage of the 21,000 vessels that lift bunkers in Singapore last year, the MPA views bunkering malpractices, in this case supply of contaminated bunkers, seriously as they tarnish Singapore's reputation as a leading and quality bunkering port."

"We have identified and taken decisive actions against those responsible for supplying contaminated bunkers. From our investigation, the source of contamination of bunker fuel could have come from waste oil from shore-based sources. The results of our investigation were made possible by the close co-operation and assistance received from various organisations including the ENV, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the Police, the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA), oil majors, fuel testing laboratories and other bunker suppliers."

Conclusion

Said Capt Khong, "The bunkering industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It forms an important component of the Singapore port's economic activities. Hence, the MPA and relevant government agencies are committed to safeguarding the interest of bunker buyers in Singapore. The MPA will continue to work closely with members of the industry and other concerned parties. For instance, it is presently working with the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) on an accreditation scheme for bunker suppliers. The scheme would include a demerit point system to improve the quality and reliability of bunker suppliers and to deter bunkering malpractices. We have also drafted other proposals to tighten up supervision of the bunkering industry. These proposals are now being evaluated by the appropriate authorities. With the co-operation of the bunkering industry and the support of shipowners, charterers and operators, Singapore will continue to be an attractive bunkering port providing quality bunkers and value-for-money services to ships."

End of Release.