Fuel Quality

Priority: improving fuel quality through bunker licensing system


“A bunker licensing system ensuring good quality marine fuels can prevent undesirable illegal practices involving, for example, the admixture of prohibited (waste) substances in marine fuel.”

The Port of Rotterdam introduced a bunker licensing system on 1 January 2021. Partly at the KVNR’s insistence, there will possibly be a requirement under this licensing system to install annually calibrated and certified ‘mass flow meters’ on board bunker barges from 2023.

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Climate and Environment

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Seagoing vessels regularly have to deal with poor quality marine fuel at various ports where they bunker. This can lead to problems with the ship’s engines, in the worst case scenario rendering a ship incapacitated and posing a danger to the crew and to other ships with all the dangers and consequences thereof.

In addition, the shipping industry does not want to be used and seen as the consumer of banned (waste) substances through illegal practices. This is because this is not only harmful to the marine environment, but also due to possible exposure to the crew on board. Currently, in most bunkering ports, there is little control on the proper quality of marine fuel and possible presence of banned or illegal substances that do not belong in the fuel.

This makes us as the shipping industry an advocate for a structural solution to prevent illegal blending practices and to pursue good bunker quality. In doing so, transparency and reliability are essential throughout the bunker supply chain, as is the case in our day-to-day lives when we fill up our car at a petrol station. Shipowners want to be able to act in good faith.

The challenge

Introducing a bunker licensing system is more likely to remove the problems and increase the transparency and reliability of the bunker supply chain. It is then important that enforcement agencies or independent parties carry out regular checks on whether the bunker industry is acting correctly according to the agreement and application of the licence.

The system should also prevent illegal blending practices involving banned harmful substances in marine fuel.

In Singapore (the world’s largest bunkering port), a bunker licensing system has been in place for several years. Bunker suppliers have to renew their licences after a certain period of time and meet strict requirements on parameters such as quality and quantity.

As the proposal for a licensing system has not yet properly found its feet at IMO level, several national and international consultations are taking place, partly at the initiative of the KVNR, about the possible introduction of a licensing system in the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA). As the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp are the largest bunkering ports in Europe, it is a logical step to introduce a licensing system in these ports. This can eventually be rolled out to other ports in Europe and beyond.

State of play - 10 October 2023

The Port of Rotterdam, as Europe’s first and largest bunkering port, has implemented a bunkering licensing system since 1 January 2021. The requirements for bunker suppliers to obtain a bunker licence will be tightened in the coming years.

Partly at the KVNR’s insistence, there will be a requirement under this licensing system from 1 January 2025 to install annually calibrated and certified ‘mass flow meters’ on board bunkering barges. This should greatly improve accuracy and reduce disputes over the quantity delivered also in the interest of transparency.

The KVNR office is in close consultation with ports, bunker suppliers, manufacturers and Dutch shipowners to see what (further) measures need to be taken to improve bunker fuel quality, transparency and thus the image of the bunkering sector.