Although there is not a universal standard for bunkering procedures, several attempts have been made including The Singapore Bunker Procedure. Although not specifically mentioned in the ISM code, closer inspection will reveal that a bunkering operation involves most sections of the code, esp. section 7 relating to procedures for the prevention of pollution.

The Bunker system should have been maintained in good order and all equipment such as tank level gauges and alarms should be in working order. The bunker lines should have been pressure tested (7 bar) within the past 12 months. The bunkers ordered together with that remaining on board should meet the bunker requirements for the coming voyage + 5 days. Prior to arrival at bunker port the Chief Engineer will ensure that the 2/E or his deputy knows the quantity and specification of the fuel to be taken on. After dipping the tanks to determine the quantity remaining on board, and consulting with the Chief Officer, in case of stability problems, arrange any necessary transfer of fuel to allow bunkering to take place into empty tanks. This is in case of incompatibility or specification problems with the bunkered fuel. Check operation of alarms in overflow tank and pump out if required. Record transfers in oil record book. After any necessary transfers, calculate free space available, taking into account that tanks will only be filled to 95% capacity to allow for expansion.

Check fuel lines earth bonding. Check communication equipment between manifold and tank controls. Clean all filters in bunker filling lines. Issue loading plan to E.R. staff informing them which tanks are to be filled and in which order. Ensure those involved in the bunkering operation are fully briefed, and know the position of valves, order of filling, emergency procedures.

On arrival at the bunker port, check fuel oil soundings sheet and make any necessary adjustments to calculations. Ensure overflow tank is empty. Before the bunker barge comes alongside the bridge watchkeeper will have hoisted the bunkering flag (or red light at night). The bunker loading plan should be prominently displayed at the manifold connection, the bunker station, and engineers office. Ensure driptrays are placed under manifold connections and that scuppers are plugged adjacent to filling point. Ensure oil spillage emergency kit is to hand. Foam extinguishers are also placed adjacent to bunker station. No smoking signs erected and visible. If a fuel meter is fitted in the filling line, record the reading.

Once the barge is alongside, check with the barge master that the fuel on the barge according to the delivery sheet is of the grade and quantity ordered. The receipt will also detail location and time of delivered product, temperature of product, density at standard reference temperature, and the sample seal numbers. The Chief Engineer or his deputy should dip the tanks on the barge before bunkers commence. They will be dipped again at the end of the transfer to check that the fuel quantity delivered tallies with that received on board. Because the fuel will most probably be heated, a correction factor may be applied which will correct the volume of the fuel to that at 15°C. If a meter is fitted on the barge discharge line, record the reading.

Before the line is connected, a sample should be taken on board and tested for compatibility. This is especially important if the fuel must be “loaded on top”, that is put into a tank which already has fuel in it. Although blended fuels are stable as supplied, there is a small risk that some fuels when mixed together could produce asphaltic sediment or sludge.

The pumping rate, maximum delivery pressure, and means of communication will also be agreed with the bargemaster as will be signals for emergency stop. It will also be established whether the bunkering operation is barge or ship stop.

The barge personnel will be responsible for connecting the hose to the manifold. Ensure all valves are open between manifold and first tank(s) to be filled, apart from the valve at the manifold. When the barge is ready to start pumping, inform the engine room and open the manifold filling connection. Double check when the pumping commences that there are no leaks around the manifold connection.

The pumping rate should be slow at first in case of any mistake having been made, and once it is confirmed that all is well and the fuel is flowing to the correct tank, increased to the agreed maximum rate. Whilst the fuel oil transfer is under way, a responsible person must be stationed at the manifold at all times. He must be in communication with the engine room and the bunker barge. Checking the filling hose and the water surrounding the ship periodically, he must tell the barge to stop pumping if necessary. In the case of a spill occurring it must be dealt with using the emergency response kit. If the spillage contaminates the water surrounding the vessel, then the port authority must be informed so that their oil spill response procedure can be put into operation to limit any damage caused.

The tanks being filled must be monitored. As they approach 95% capacity then the next tank to be filled must be opened. Always open the valve of an empty tank before shutting the valve to the full one. As the end of bunkers approach, the pumping rate must be slowed down as the tanks are topped off. Once bunkers have finished The filling line may be “blown through” to ensure no oil remains in the line.

Tanks on board are then sounded and/or the fuel oil meter reading recorded, as are the tanks/meter on the barge. If the quantities tally then the fuel oil receipt can be signed by the Chief Engineer. The filling valve at the manifold is then closed, the filling line disconnected and the manifold blanks replaced. The Chief Engineer or his deputy will be asked to witness the sealing of the sample bottles, one of which should be held by the ship for at least three months in case of dispute. The fuel oil record book should be filled in with details of the amount bunkered, tanks filled and times.


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