Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

The ‘open secret’ of tainted gasoline in transportation is brought to light by the Baltimore bridge accident.

By Jennifer Mar 31, 2024
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On February 6, just after midnight, the cargo ship Dali spent five hours refueling in the Chinese port of Zhangzhou. Transponder and satellite tracking data examined by NBC News indicates that it refueled at the Chinese city of Zhoushan three days later, and again in Busan, South Korea, on February 20.

Federal safety inspectors are looking at fuel as one of the possible causes of the power outage that occurred before to the Dali colliding with and falling the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore this week.

Numerous ships are thought to lose propulsion and power due to contaminated fuel every year, but experts claim that these accidents seldom make headlines. This is due to the fact that ship failures nearly invariably happen in wide waters, where sailors can handle them safely.

An overview of the Dali’s fuelling activities prior to its arrival on the East Coast may be seen in the data that NBC News examined. Data from the boat’s passage via the Panama Canal to New York, Virginia, and Baltimore did not show any fuel stops; nevertheless, several experts who talked with NBC News thought that the boat would have needed to fuel at one of those locations.#Baltimore bridge accident

Data from the UN’s Long-Range Identification and Tracking system (LRIT), which follows ships based on satellites and other information, was used to validate the Dali’s fuel stops in Asia. The information, which was prohibited from being made public, was given by an insider who had access to the system and supplied it on the agreement that they not be named. Using information from the ship’s Automatic Identification System and from the maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic, NBC News was also able to verify the Dali’s itinerary and fuel stops.

Baltimore Bridge Crash Investigators to Examine Whether Dirty Fuel Played Role in Accident - tovima.com

tovima.com


Experts who reviewed the LRIT and MarineTraffic data on behalf of NBC News found that while the data does not provide information on the type, origin, or quality of the fuel the Dali received, it does reveal for the first time where the fuel may have been obtained as the Dali departed Baltimore. The scientists speculated that by the time it arrived in Baltimore, the fuel it had gotten before to February would have most certainly run out.

Dali runs out of gasoline.

Before traveling to Baltimore, Dali refueled in ports in China and South Korea, according to records following its travels since early February. To see additional information, touch or click on each dot.
It’s true that other variables may have contributed to the system malfunctions before to the disaster on March 26, and the National Transportation Safety Board has said that its probe is just getting started. However, legal and marine experts point out that the event has generally drawn attention to a little-known issue that lies in a gray area where regulation is lax and suppliers of contaminated gasoline are seldom held accountable.#Baltimore bridge accident

“The industry is beset with fuel contamination issues; most of these incidents go unreported or do not result in significant harm to the vessel, property, or lives aboard,” stated James Power, a maritime lawyer based in New York who formerly served as an engineering officer and merchant marine on American ships.

Power has defended a number of ship owners whose ships suffered damage from fuel contamination. He pointed out that the great majority of these occurrences don’t cause disastrous damage to the vessel or its contents.

Power said that while such circumstances are uncommon, they are predictable outcomes of a sector without self-policing systems to detect tainted gasoline prior to sale, loading, and engine use.

According to Steve Bee, group commercial and business development director of VPS, a testing service that provides information to over 12,000 vessels worldwide and issues alerts on contaminated fuel, fuel contamination not only puts ship crew members at risk but can also result in pollution and harm the reputations of shipping companies. He clarified that the Dali was not a customer.#Baltimore bridge accident

According to Bee, contamination may occur anywhere, at any time, and is not limited to any one geographic area or provider.

He claimed that there have been no new warnings from VPS about gasoline pollution in South Korea or China.

Regarding whether gasoline could have had a role in the tragedy, a representative for the Danish shipping behemoth Maersk, which chartered the Dali, refused to comment.

The spokesman, Kevin Doell, sent out an email stating, “With regard to fueling, we are closely following the investigations conducted by authorities and the vessel operator as well as conducting our own investigation.”

Requests for response from Grace Ocean Private, the ship’s owner, and Synergy Marine Group, its operator and manager, were not immediately answered. #Baltimore bridge accident

Baltimore bridge crash: Safety investigation to include contaminated bunker fuel as possible cause | Manifold Times

Manifold Times

As officials attempt to identify the reason of the disaster, Jennifer Homendy, head of the NTSB, said at a press conference on Wednesday that they will collect a sample of the fuel and analyze it for impurities.#Baltimore bridge accident

The collection of agencies in charge of the accident response was questioned by the U.S. Coast Guard, but they did not reply.

In response to inquiries, port authorities in Zhoushan and Zhangzhou did not immediately reply.

Authorities at the port of Busan said that they would not be aware of any fuel-related problems. The Southern Sea Division of the Korea Coast Guard informed NBC News that it has not heard of any incidents involving fuelling this year.#Baltimore bridge accident

The commercial boats above 3,000 gross tons are tracked by the LRIT system, which provided the movements of the Dali. The information about the fuel delivery is derived from a signed report that is sent to the government of the nation in which the transfer occurred, along with the flag state of the receiving ship, and is subsequently automatically added to the LRIT system. The report is signed by both the delivery ship and the receiving ship.

Regarding the details of the Dali probe, a representative for the International Maritime Organizationβ€”the UN body that oversees global shipping and manages the LRITβ€”refused to comment.

According to her, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or MARPOL, regulates the quality of fuel oil and stipulates that hazardous additives and chemical waste are not permitted in fuel. She also mentioned gasoline oil sample.#Baltimore bridge accident

According to her, member nations have an obligation to report events to the International Maritime Organization.

Yet, analysts claim that the system has significant flaws.

“It’s unclear what exactly counts as an incident,” said Jonathan Arneault, CEO of FuelTrust, a Houston-based startup that tracks the source of marine fuel using artificial intelligence.

According to him, “it’s usually defined as harm or risk to safety or environment.” “It is not recorded if the ship does not reach that criterion. In light of this, the member state is at peace.

Arneault said that few nations have strict regulations on fuel management and that the supply chain for ship fuel, often referred to as bunker fuel, is very opaque.#Baltimore bridge accident

Water is a frequent fuel contaminant, although it is seldom sufficient to result in a significant system failure. Experts suggest that heavier, more corrosive particles are more likely to be the cause.

Although most gasoline contamination is inadvertent, dishonest fuel suppliers have been known to dilute their product with less expensive materials in order to boost supply and optimize earnings.

According to Thomas Roth-Roffy, a former NTSB marine investigator who resigned in 2016, “They can do a lot of weird things for money.”

However, he said that there’s a good chance the gasoline or fuel system had nothing to do with the Dali’s power outage.

“There are numerous scenarios that could cause the engine to malfunction, as the diesel engine has hundreds of components subject to failure,” the guy said.#Baltimore bridge accident

Arneault believes that when the power went off, the Dali may have been operating on gasoline near the bottom of its tank, where a heavier pollutant would have collected. He thinks the gasoline is to fault since, just before the Singaporean ship collided with a bridge support, CCTV footage showed the lights on the Dali flickering on and off a few times and black smoke rising from its chimney.

Arneault said, “It’s probably not just an engine issue because the generators go out,” adding that it’s probable the generators were running on the same fuel. “That suggests there may be a fuel problem.”

Not everything about the ship’s power outage is known. While some analysts believe that the Dali would have need additional gasoline to reach its intended destination of Sri Lanka when it collided with the Key Bridge, the tracking information that is now available does not support any fuel supplies in either New York or Baltimore.#Baltimore bridge accident

Before gasoline is meant to be utilized to start an engine, a sample is submitted for laboratory testing when it is supplied to a ship. Nevertheless, not all potential pollutants are examined by those tests. Although Arneault believes the tests should be increased, he noted that ship operators are not very enthusiastic about the idea since they are already expensive.

While the majority of poor fuel events remain unreported, on occasion they lead to industry warnings, investigations, and legal disputes.

Approximately 200 ships were impacted by gasoline tainted with an epoxy-making chemical in 2018. A few people lost their electricity. Testing firms located the gasoline in Singapore, Houston, and Panama. At the time, scientists believed that the contamination was a portent of an impending disaster, a symptom of an opaque supply chain that permitted a “witch’s brew” of chemicals.#Baltimore bridge accident

Four years later, in 2022, officials in Singapore announced an epidemic affecting almost thirty ships, 14 of which had engine issues and power outages, researchers found. Subsequently, an inquiry identified the source as two suppliers: one located in China and the other in Singapore. One had its authorization revoked.

Contaminated gasoline plagued the U.S. Gulf Coast last year, causing 14 boats’ engines to malfunction and some of them to lose power and propulsion while at sea. The tainted gasoline was tracked by VPS to Singapore and Houston.

According to Arneault, the occurrences involving tainted gasoline that get public attention are not indicative of the majority of such events. Using data from fleet managers and private incident databases, he counted over 120 of these occurrences in 2022 and at least 460 in 2021.#Baltimore bridge accident

“People in the ship fuel market have accepted small losses or even small-scale fraud for more than 50 years, believing these problems were too little to worry about,” said Arneault. However, the last five years have shown us that even these seemingly “minor” issues may result in significant risks and expenses.

By Jennifer

FIELD REPORTER ON DPUNIV

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