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The case for adopting latest version of ISO 8217 specifications in bunkering

The case for adopting latest version of ISO 8217 specifications in bunkering
The ISO 8217:2012, the current and fifth edition of the ISO 8217 international fuel standard was driven by the IMO push for improved bunker quality to enhance crew and machinery operational safety, as well as increased health and environmental protection.

Despite an initial slow adoption rate, mainly due to long-term charter contracts using the ISO 8217:2005 parameters, non-availability in some ports or surcharge imposed on fuel price, there is now growing understanding of the advantages of the latest edition of ISO 8217. Based on data from Veritas Petroleum Services’ (VPS) tested fuel samples, about one-third of its customers are testing to the new standard. However, compared to ship operators in Europe and the Americas, those in Asia, the Middle East and Africa are still behind in adopting the latest standard.

The 2005 specification does not adequately cover today's requirements for fuels supplied on a worldwide basis. Crude oil supplies, refining methods, ships' machinery, environmental legislation and local conditions vary considerably and are constantly developing.

ISO 8217, the internationally recognised standard for marine fuels, is regularly revised and the ISO 8217:2012 edition is the result of an in-depth revision which considered:

  • Technical developments onboard
  • Safety and health of ship and crew
  • Fuel oil production and global availability
  • Legislative requirements and environmental protection

As ISO 8217 is a live document constantly updated to reflect today's realities, ship owners and operators should take note of the protection against costly engine damage offered by the latest version, ISO 8217: 2012.

ISO8217:2012 is undoubtedly a better fuel specification which takes into account the main issues associated with the use of low sulphur distillate by tightening existing test parameters and adding parameters that addresses aspects of quality that can be affected by the reduction of sulphur content.

VPS studies show increased cases of Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) not meeting specification. This suggests the inclusion of bio-fuels in marine distillates. Although FAME in general has excellent ignition and combustion properties, it will increase the risk of microbiological growth and degrade cold flow properties which may cause difficulties in storing and handling in the supply chain and/or on board vessels.

As the demand for cleaner fuels increases due to the tightening of sulphur limits inside Emission Control Areas (ECAs), it is expected that quality issues with marine distillate fuels will increase. Given the rise in problems associated with distillate fuels in key bunkering ports around the world, Veritas Petroleum Services recommends switching to the latest edition of ISO 8217 for best protection against engine damage.

There are proactive suppliers who have made an effort to comply with the ISO 8217:2012 specifications and they have clearly benefited from the supply chain. Refiners and traders will also need to do their part in ensuring quality assurance and compliance at source.

It is to be noted that a draft revising the ISO 8217:2012 is being circulated for comment and approval. The early adopters will have a competitive edge and will be more prepared in adjusting to the newer standard.

The pros clearly outweigh the cons for adopting the latest 8217 standard. Since supply always comes on the heels of demand, ship operators/owners need to make a decisive move towards the new standard. Beginning with a baby step in this direction will go a long way in preventing costly engine damages in the long run.

Contributed by Josephine Goh, senior sales manager for Asia, Middle East & Africa at Veritas Petroleum Services. Email: [email protected]