Bunkering Operation Process Onboard: Precautions & Checklist
One of the primary cause of marine pollution is oil spillages and leakages during bunkering operations. Most of the bunker overflows and spillages can be attributed to human error. Bunkering of fuel oil requires utmost care and alertness to prevent any kind of fire accident or oil spillage.
Bunkering operations requires planning and should be executed in accordance with international regulations. A standard bunkering operation is carried out with bunker checklists which forms part of companies safety management system (SMS). The procedure for bunkering operations are mostly highlighted on the Safety Management System.
The procedures ensures that the risks associated with the operation have been assessed and that controls are in place to mitigate these risks. It also covers contingency plan in event of oil spillage.
Bunker or Bunker fuel
Ship needs fuel to power its engines for propulsion and other machineries onboard. Bunkering could be of fuel oil, lube oil, lng, etc. Thus, it is important to learn about the process of bunkering onboard.
Ship consumes humungous quantity of fuel depending on size and capacity. the cost of ship bunkers forms major part of operating costs of a ship.
Ship Managers monitors the performance of a fleet of ships in their care. They check the fuel oil consumption of the main propulsion engine of the ship and with the voyage plan calculate the quantity of fuel oil required with available bunker tank capacity.
A requisition is placed through the C/E and Master of the vessel to the Managers. The requisition is processed and evaluated for the quality and quantity of fuel to be supplied for the particular ship.
Planning is done for the delivery of bunker at a particular port where the oil is available at a comparative lesser cost. On taking all these aspects into consideration, the Managers, deliver bunker to the vessel.
Upon receiving the bunker, a sample collected during bunkering operation is sent for lab analysis to confirm the delivered oil meets the required standard for the safe and efficient operation of the auxiliary engines & main propulsion engine.
The Chief Engineer is in charge of bunkering operation, as such must be consulted while following the bunkering checklist.
Before making bunker distribution plan, the 4th engineer or assigned person will take soundings of bunker tanks and calculate the volume of fuel available in every fuel oil tank of the ship. Record of the sounding should be made.
(There may be need to tranfer bunker from some tanks to another to avoid mixing two incompatible oils.)
Personnel involved in the bunkering operation should be briefed on their responsibilities, tanks to be filled, the sequence order of tanks to be filled, the quantity of bunker and emergency procedure in case of oil spills.
Before Bunkering Checklist
- Ensure that the vessel is properly secured to dock
- Confirmed that suppliers product corresponds to ordered product
- Ensure all deck scuppers and trays are plugged.
- Provide adequate lighting and sounding position at bunker.
- Keep warning signs in position e.g. No Smoking
- Open check valves
- Close supply valves
- Ensure clean up material, Oil Boom and foam fire extinguisher are in place
- Ensure overflow tank is kept empty.
- Establish communication between the bunkering personnel.
- At masthead, fly the Bravo flag/ red light.
- Close and blank opposite side bunker manifold valves properly.
- Record the draught and trim of the vessel before bunkering.
- Ensure Shipboard Oil Pollution Emergency Plan (SOPEP) is available and all equipments in SOPEP locker are in place.
- Secure the barge to the ship side and brief the persons involved on barge on the bunker plan.
- The following should be discussed and agreed on between the barge (supplier) and the bunkering team:
- Stop/start signals between vessel and barge/truck
- Pumping/transfer rate
- Emergency shut down procedure
- Inspect the specification sheet for the fuel oil and ensure it corresponds with requested product.
- Connect the hose to the manifold and ensure that the couplings are secured.
- Establish proper communication between the barge and the ship.
- Open fuel tank supply valves involved.
- Secure fuel nozzle and hose to vessel
- Check and record meter readings on the barge and the vessel.
- Inform the master and open manifold valve for bunkering.
- Signal the barge for bunkering operations to commence.
- Blank off unused manifold connections.
During Bunkering Checklist
- When the bunker fuel transfer commences, keep the pump rate low and confirm that the desired tank is being pumped to before increasing to agreed pumping rate.
- Monitor fuel connections for leaks fuel flow and control tank levels
- Change over of tanks whenever necessary.
- When changing over from one tank to another, carefully ensure that an excessive back pressure is not put on the hose or loading lines.
- The bunker loading rate should be checked regularly.
- Generally one tank is filled at a time because gauging of more than one tank has a increases the chances of overflow.
- Check the mooring ropes to see how tight or slack off it is.
- Check the trim/list of the bunker barge & the ship.
- During bunkering, regular sounding is required especially when transfer is near completion. Monitor the tank level guage in control room.
When the tank is almost at its maximum allowable fill capacity (about 90%), signal the barge to reduce the pumping rate to top-off to reduce the possibility of air locks in the tank causing mist carry over through the vents, and to minimise the risk of the supplier not stopping quickly enough
After Bunkering Checklist
The practice of blowing lines with air into bunker tanks has a high risk of causing a spillage unless the tank is only part full and has sufficient ullage on completion of loading.
- Close bunker valve
- Take sounding of all the tanks bunkered.
- Check and record barge and ship's meter Reading
- Check the draught and trim of the ship.
- Disconnect and drain all hoses and lines to the tank
- The chief engineer will sign the Bunker Delivery Receipt BDR No.:(Bunker Delivery Report/Note).
- Retain BDR with product sample and send to lab for analysis.
- Return SOPEP plan to bridge
- Clean up and return gear stowed, Oil boom, warning/safety signs and Foam fire extinguisher.
- Revert Bravo Flag/Red light
- Complete Oil Record Book
- Master informed of completion
- Confirm in Oil Record Book Bunkering checklist completed
In case of issues with bunker received, the Chief Engineer can issue a note of protest against the barge (supplier).