Handling claims / Disputes
Quantity disputes are best handled on the spot. In practical terms to achieve best results buyer must make immediate contact with the seller to all parties to discuss to resolve. If an impasse is reached and time constraints come into play preventing such or for some reason neither is available the master must have a "Letter of protest" prepared and acknowledged by the supplier / supplier's barge. Failing to do either renders a claim null or void. If a claim is badly documented and protest / dissatisfaction not documented at the time, it is very difficult to fight retro-actively as the supplier is not given the correct chance to mitigate and correct. Should only the supplier's documentation exist then there is no way to fight a dispute.
In terms of quality, no matter the sophistication of existing quality assurance systems, fuel batches blended to a spec are occasionally found by analytical services to be out of spec. 99% of supplies are on spec, however if any, deviations are usually minor, often resulting from suppliers' wish to blend without safety margin and in so doing avoid unprofitable quality give-away. This often results in small density and viscosity overshoots and usually fuel treatment and pre-heater systems onboard are able to cope with them. ISO 8217:1996 levels was designed to build in a safety margin for vessels than previously existed. Subsequent to that 8217:2005 has strengthened this although available in most major ports around the world it is not available necessarily in the more "exotic" locations. ISO8217:2010 has been introduced to reduce sulphur output and is now mandatory in some areas. Both standards are reinforced by a standardisation of procedures with MARPOL Annex IV.
Claims where the deviations are slight, are regularly settled by rebate, which is calculated on the price differential between the fuel oil supplied and the cutter stock (usually MDO) used to blend the product to spec. Similar agreements are usually settled with a recredit in the case of elevated water content (common in northern areas of the Baltic and Black Sea due to the often freezing conditions making it difficult to control).
If difficulties are experienced, run through the Trouble Shooting checklist as a guideline and also:
- Quarantine the suspect fuel and run for a long as possible on previous fuel / MDO.
- Make sure you have your retained sample available for testing.
- In the unlikely eventuality that the fuel was supplied by a Global Vision supplier, inform GVB and keep the supplier on notice of problems.
- Transport the samples for immediate testing to a reliable and independent laboratory.
- Discuss results and analytical work with technical department, engine manufacturer.
- Discuss damage limitation measures with supplier.
- Have GVB act as representative, if the fuel is found to be unsuitable for use GVB will look to recover costs / damages from the supplier on behalf of the owner.
The following properties can render the fuel unfit for use and are more serious:
- Pour Point / Viscosity (for vessels without sufficient tank heating capacity – making the fuel unpumpable)
- Flash PointHomogenity (gross differences can cause collapse of treatment and pre-heating systems)
- Stability (the ship’s fuel treatment system will collapse if excessively out of spec)
- Particles / cat fines (causing elevated wear of critical engine components causing a black out)
- Ignition quality (CCAI limits are set by engine manufacturers)