Marine fuel quality disputes

Disputes on fuel quality generally occur between either the shipowner and charterers or between charterers and the suppliers of the fuel oil. Based in one of the world’s largest fuel supply ports, we have acquired extensive experience in dealing with these matters as a specialist consultant, expert witness and arbitrator.

Parties such as oil traders, vessel owners and charterers or their P&I Clubs frequently appeal to our services in this field which include:

  • damage surveys to engine and equipment (allegedly) caused by poor fuels
  • sampling, testing and specification compliance
  • advice on fuel suitability based on test results
  • review of fuel treatment systems on board
  • advice on de-bunkering / disposal of off-spec bunkers
  • speed and consumption claims.


Fuel oil is often a blend of various residual and distillate fuels. With the progressing technique of analysis, more and more compounds can be detected in fuel oil, even compounds that have been present in fuel oil for several decades. If compounds are found in the fuel oil and cause damage to the engine, the fuel can be de-bunkered.
We are often involved in bunker quality disputes, also in cases of de-bunkering. In one particular case in which we acted for charterers of a vessel and their P&I Club, we successfully advised the principals and their lawyers up to the Supreme Court in the Netherlands that the fuel oil had not been off-spec as alleged and that it should not have been de-bunkered. Our principal was reimbursed for amongst others the value of the bunkers, the storage costs, and part of the costs for the proceedings.