Fuel and Liquid Cargos

In 2019, Brookes Bell acquired Associated Petroleum Consultants Ltd to bolster our fuel and liquid cargo services.

The majority of our fuel chemistry specialists have over 30 years’ experience in the investigation of disputes and claims arising from the various technical aspects in the quantity and quality control of bulk liquid oil transport.

Our experts come from different technical and scientific backgrounds, including former deck officers of tankers, petrochemical carriers and LPG/LNG vessels, as well as laboratory chemists.  Together we have expertise in all aspects of the quantity and quality control of bulk-shipped liquid cargoes and regularly advise on:

  • Crude Oil & Petroleum Products (Marpol Annex 1 Substances)
  • Bunker Fuel Oil Quality
  • Chemical, Vegetable Oil, Fats & Related Products (Marpol Annex 2 Substances)
  • Liquefied Petroleum & Chemical Gases
  • Quantity & Quality Disputes
  • Remote Situation Advice (RSA)

Crude Oil & Petroleum Products (Marpol Annex 1 Substances)

A perennial problem with the oil shipping industry is that no-one wants to pay the price of a barrel of oil for the price of water, or for cargo that cannot be entirely delivered, or for cargo which does not meet specification.

There are subtle variations in the characteristics of crude oils from different wells and parts of the world that have to be factored in to bulk transportation.  Water contaminations and cargo retention clause disputes may seem to be relatively simple to resolve, but the nature of the cargo itself can play a key role. 

We have expertise in the carriage of crude oil and petroleum products and have offered advice in many different areas, including:

Crude oils:

  • All sizes of tankers, OBO’s & OO’s
  • Cargo loss on voyage from loadport to disport (ship & shore)
  • Loadport losses (evaporative or otherwise)
  • Intransit losses (evaporative or otherwise)
  • Discharge port losses
  • Cargo conversion
  • Storage/refinery losses
  • Cargo quality disputes
  • Water contaminations
  • ROB disputes
  • Cargo quality and effectiveness of both discharge & crude oil washing operations
  • Wax precipitation
  • Wax contamination of Napthenic crudes
  • Cargo heating
  • Characterisation of ROB
  • Issues with COW performance
  • Shore terminal surveys
  • Joint surveys
  • Demurrage disputes
  • Charter party performance disputes
  • Voyage performance disputes
  • Expert attendance – Arbitration/High Court worldwide
  • Crude oil cargo operations
  • Unusual crude oils and associated problems

Petroleum Products:

  • Contaminations of fuel oil by crude oil
  • Investigation of quality issues
    • Colour, WISM, freeze point & thermal stability problems with jet fuel cargoes
    • Water contamination of VGO, carbon black oil, lubricants
    • Chloride contamination
    • Sulphur content of diesel
    • Particulate matter
    • Discolouration
    • Flash point issues
  • Contamination of clean petroleum products (CPP)
    • Naphthas, gasolines, jet fuels, kerosenes, gas oils & diesels
  • Contamination of Dirty Petroleum Products (DPP)
    • Vacuum gas oils, lubricating oils, carbon black, heavy fuel
  • General Bill of Lading & outturn disputes
  • General investigations into alleged intransit losses
  • Cargo conversion
  • Contamination of white mineral oils
  • Charterparty disputes
  • Description of cargoes
  • Cargo heating disputes
  • Tank cleaning disputes
  • Inspection of cargo tanks, after rejection for loading
  • Bunker contaminations (quality and resultant engine damage)

Bunker Fuel Oil Quality

Over the years, bunker fuel has been seen as a convenient “dumping ground” for dirty oil and other chemical wastes, which were largely undetectable in the fuel.

While a narrative can be relatively simply made that a “vessel started having engine room problems only while consuming a fuel”, it can be very difficult to resolve whether any alleged engine or fuel handling equipment damage is due to the actual maintenance of the engine room and equipment, or the characteristics of the fuel in use at the time.

ISO 8217 is a complex specification for the quality of bunker fuel supplied to vessels.  On the one hand it is a simple specification with regard to the required physical qualities of the fuel for use, but it also contains a general requirement that the fuel should be “suitable for use” – and that is not so easily defined.  Forensic laboratory examination of samples can provide some insight into what may be causing problems in use.

Samples are key in trying to understand bunker issues.  Although custody samples taken at the point of delivery are often the “legal” samples of representiveness, samples taken from vessel’s systems represent what is happening “in use”.  We always recommend that a suite of samples should be available from the various points of contention:

  • Point of delivery (manifold drip)
  • Storage tanks (do you have the same fuel here?)
  • Transfer pump (what is coming from the storage tanks)
  • Settling tank (what is the compatibility with previous bunkers?)
  • Service tank (how well is the fuel purified?)
  • Engine feed (what is being delivered to the engine at the time of any incident?)
  • Sludge samples (ex strainers, purifiers, filters… What is the deposit? – only then can you have some idea of where it may have come from)

We have many years’ experience of dealing with ISO 8217 specification quality disputes, and can also provide engine room experience.

Chemical, Vegetable Oil, Fats and Related Products (Marpol Annex 2 Substances)

The carriage and transportation of liquid chemicals and vegetable oils (International Bulk Chemical [IBC] Code products), is a highly specialised business, in most cases requiring dedicated ships, with highly trained crew and experienced shore personnel to ensure that a client’s product is properly loaded, carried and discharged safely and without incident.

Most products are carried without incident, but when problems occur our team of highly experienced and qualified experts are on hand to provide help and advice to Owners, Charterers, Insurers etc.

Brookes Bell can provide expertise from practised chemical tanker Master Mariners through to highly experienced chemists in order to best problem solve the complex issues that can occur in the transportation of liquid chemicals, vegetable oils, fats and related products.

Our expertise includes

  • Cargo contamination claims
  • Contamination investigation
  • Development of analytical protocols/strategies for forensic type analysis
  • Witnessed analysis in laboratories
  • Off-Spec cargo investigation and reclamation
  • Quality, quantity and condition disputes
  • Charter party disputes
  • Tank coatings condition & suitability
  • Specialist tank cleaning advice
  • Advice on wall-wash procedures & results
  • Composition & quality of vegetable oils, fats & other natural products (e.g. molasses)
  • Extensive expert witness experience in Mediation, Arbitration and Court Hearings
  • List of past chemicals experience includes:
    • Methanol
    • Ethanol
    • IsoPropyl Alcohol (IPA)
    • Vinyl Acetate Monomer (VAM)
    • Mono Ethylene Glycol (MEG)
    • Styrene monomer
    • Ethyl acetate
    • Caustic soda
    • Phosphoric acid
    • Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB)
    • Xylene
    • Hexane
    • Phenol
    • Toluene
    • Acrylonitrile
    • Acetone
    • Hexamethylenediamine (HMD)
    • Acetic acid

Liquefied Petroleum and Chemical Gases

Liquid gas carriers are a speciality fleet, and problems with these cargoes have unique characteristics when compared to other bulk liquids.

LPGs comprise anything from fuels to speciality products and pure chemicals, and each cargo can have its own characteristics.

Brookes Bell has many years’ experience in dealing with a variety of liquefied gas disputes, some of which cover the following:

  • Methanol contamination of propane & butane
  • Water contamination of propylene
  • Butadiene contamination of propylene & ethylene
  • Copper corrosion contamination of propane
  • Dimer contamination in butadiene
  • Inhibitor contamination in butadiene
  • LPG specification disputes
  • LPG cargo tank change-over disputes
  • Ammonia, propylene or mercaptan contamination of LPG
  • Excess water in LPG & resultant damage to cargo handling equipment
  • LPG Bill of Lading & outturn disputes
  • LNG & LPG charter party performance disputes
  • General advice on loading, carriage, discharge & cargo change-over procedures between all grades of LPG, LNG & chemical gases

Quantity and Quality Disputes

There are subtle variations in the characteristics of crude oils from different wells, and parts of the world, that have to be factored in to bulk transportation. Water contaminations and cargo retention disputes may seem relatively simple to resolve, but the nature of the cargo itself can play a key role. Equally, chemical cargoes can be especially demanding with respect to quality and their market value can be high, so problems can be costly. Our experts have well over 30 years’ experience investigating quantity and quality disputes.

Types of Losses/Shortages

Liquid cargo losses and/or shortages tend to be limited to crude oils and petroleum products (albeit shortages can occur with natural products, such as vegetable oils and molasses). Brookes Bell deal with all aspects of liquid losses; on board vessels, in oil terminals, during loading, carriage and subsequent discharge, whether by STS operations or transfer to/from shore tanks.

Such losses can be from one, or more, of the following sources:

  • Mismeasurement of cargo & water, in shore tanks before/after loading
  • Mismeasurement of OBQ residues, in cargo tanks, before loading
  • Mismeasurement of cargo & water, in cargo tanks, after loading
  • Apparent intransit losses of cargo, caused by previously unmeasured water settlement and/or evaporation of cargo lighter fractions on the loaded voyage
  • Inadvertent leakage of cargo, whether on board, or ashore, or both
  • Shoreline fullness mismeasurement, at start of discharge
  • Mismeasurement of cargo & water, in shore tanks, after completion of discharge
  • Mismeasurement of ROB residues, in cargo tanks, before/after discharge
  • Paper losses caused by differing measurement & calculation procedures

Types of Contamination

Contaminations of other bulk product cargoes (such as gasolines, diesels, naphthas, jet fuels, gas oils & all liquid chemicals, transported in sea-going tankers), in the past, could be readily attributable to human error, in segregation on board, or leakage through poorly maintained vessel structures and equipment, or poorly presented vessel’s cargo tanks containing residues of previous cargoes. While maintenance of vessels has improved over the years, Brookes Bell have been investigating such disputes, the specifications of these product cargoes has become increasingly complex and restrictive, so that even the smallest of errors can lead to a “contamination”. Such contaminations can be very costly, especially where fine chemicals are involved.

We have many years of experience of investigating casualty claims, for contaminations from many different sources – not least from the intrinsic properties of themselves, as loaded.

Brookes Bell deal with all types of liquid product and chemical cargo contamination (or quality dispute) caused by one, or more, of the following:

  • Liquid contamination, by ingress of other liquid cargo, due to cargo valve mal-operation, or steel bulkhead integrity
  • Vapour contamination, via onboard vapour lines, of volatile cargoes
  • Loss of integrity of inert gas blanket and/or quality of the latter
  • Contamination by past cargo residues, caused by poor cargo tank preparation and/or poor cargo tank coating condition
  • Water contamination by fresh and/or sea water
  • Inherent vice of the cargo
  • Contamination, and/or loss of quality, caused by poor heating control, during the loaded passage and/or during discharge
  • Specification and test method anomalies

Remote Situation Advice (RSA)

Brookes Bell specialise in the remote management of incidents, using local P&I Correspondents and inspection companies. We will liaise directly with all personnel on the scene and give advice on the gathering of the necessary evidence (inspection, document retrieval, sampling and subsequent local analysis, if deemed reliable), in order to protect the client’s interest. If considered necessary, we will arrange for samples to be sent to the UK, for safe storage and subsequent joint analysis.


Losses and contaminations of crude oils, products, veg oils, petrochemicals, LPG, LNG and chemical gases will be investigated, and an opinion given as to the most likely causes. This initial opinion will be given entirely impartially, as we believe the client should be in possession of all facts, whether good or bad, before proceeding to the next stage. If required, Brookes Bell will produce an expert report, suitable for litigation purposes.

Key contact

Brendan Cuffe

Brendan Cuffe

Director of UK, Marine Engineer


work +44 151 236 0083
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