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Bunker quality disputes - Advantage suppliers. Always!

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

Claiming against the suppliers for off-spec bunkers is difficult and more often than not, owners are on the back foot in such disputes for various reasons. UPT vs. Golden Arrow [2023] is one such example, where the allegation was that bunkers (VLSFO) are off-spec for ULO and Fame content. The owners were relying on their own test results for that.

The test results of the receiving vessel’s manifold samples taken by the owners showed high Fame content, and zinc and phosphorous well beyond the ISO 8217:2010 limits potentially indicating the presence of ULO. The vessel had also suffered engine damage and detailed testing revealed the presence of various chemicals/contaminants. The suppliers of course rejected these results, as the binding sample was the barge sample(s) per the suppliers’ T&Cs. Joint testing of the barge sample showed the fuel to be on-spec for ULO. As for the Fame content, the supplier said that any tests of Fame would be inconclusive as the VLSFO sample would have deteriorated over time (which in this case was 2 yrs).

The District Court of Rotterdam agreed that based on the bunker supply contract the barge samples provided conclusive and binding evidence of the quality of the fuel delivered. The Court did point out that the joint testing was limited in scope, but that was what both the parties had agreed to, and in any case, the sample size that remained after testing for ULO, was not enough for an extensive chemical analysis.

Link to the judgment of the Rotterdam District Court:!/details?id=ECLI:NL:RBROT:2023:9592&showbutton=true&keyword=bunkers&idx=4

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