Problem Fuel Investigation – Houston and Panama 2018.

In light of the spate of problem fuels seen in ports in and around the US Gulf Coast region and Panama during the early part of 2018 a number of questions have been raised in relation to composition of fuel oil from the area and the potential root cause of the issues experienced.
So far it has been suggested that in excess of 100 vessels have been affect by the supply of “contaminated” product and have witnessed operational difficulties and damage as a result of the use of the product.
Forensic investigation has highlighted a number of unusual chemical species within these fuels and a great deal of speculation has been offer in relation to which chemical component was the root cause of the problems seen.

In an attempt to provide a greater degree of clarity and to offer further support and guidance regarding such issues in future Intertek Lintecis undertaking an extensive study to look at the composition of fuels supplied in and around the Houston and Panama area prior to the problems earlier this year.
In looking at the composition of these fuels it will provide further information regarding the “typical chemical fingerprint or normal residual fuels” such that potential queries in relation to the presence of compounds within fuels can be addressed directly.

In order to gain the greatest possible database from which to draw we would kindly request that any vessels that have bunkered in the Us Gulf Coast Region during the middle to latter part of 2017 submit any expired Marpol samples to Intertek Lintec to be examined as part of the project.

Given current legislative requirements for the retention of Marpol samples are as noted below:

Regulation 18

8.1 The bunker delivery note shall be accompanied by a representative sample of the fuel oil delivered taking into account guidelines developed by the Organisation. The sample is to be sealed and signed by the supplier’s representative and the master or officer in charge of the bunkering operation on completion of bunkering operations and remain under the ships control until the fuel is substantially consumed, but in any case for a period of not less than 12 months from the time of delivery.

This being the case any Marpol samples taken in relation to supplies of fuel from ports in / around US Gulf Coast and ports in Panama that are in excess of 12 months old, and are due for disposal, be forwarded to the UK Linteclaboratory for further investigation.
Any samples to be forwarded can be sent to the UK Linteclaboratory in the standard manner using the Priority Advantage Desk by utilising the paperwork provided in the on-board kits or via the on-line portal. Details for the on-line portal are as below and no additional courier costs will be incurred when forwarding additional samples for this project:


The outcome of the study will be published and supplied to all Intertek Lintec clients upon completion.

Should you have any questions in relation to this project please contact our technical staff directly at

For any queries in relation to the submission of expired Marpol samples for analysis please contact our Logistics Team at

If you wish to discuss any of the points highlighted in this circular, please feel free to contact our technical team on +44 (0)1325 390183 or e-mail