Welcome to the August edition of the Brookes Bell monthly news digest. For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope you are managing to grab at least a few days of summer vacation even though coronavirus is hampering international travel.
In an eclectic mix of articles this month, we look at the importance of maintenance and testing; we call for a coherent platform for maritime expert witnesses in Asia; and we put a spotlight on our unique scientific and cargo expertise. In addition, Mike Liu, one of our fuel chemists, explains what keeps him busy each day.
At Brookes Bell we continue to be as busy as ever and I’m proud to say that we’ve not allowed coronavirus to hamper the service we deliver to you, our clients. Our teams remain online and fully accessible and please feel free to contact any one of us if you think we can help.
Anthony York, Chief Operating Officer
The importance of Verifying Cooling Water Treatment Tests
Brendan Cuffe, Director of UK discusses the importance of testing a vessel’s cooling water treatment, based on a case he was called to investigate recently.
He joined the vessel in question, in South Korea, after receiving instruction from the P&I Club to investigate a generator engine failure on a refrigerated cargo ship. The vessel had experienced the loss of generator engines Nos. 2 and 3 while on loaded passage from New Zealand with a cargo of kiwi fruit.
Over ten days, high exhaust temperatures in the different generator engines meant that they were shut down intermittently. The cylinder heads were removed and replaced which seemed to reduce exhaust temperatures temporarily. The generators also suffered extensive water leakage which led to the ‘o’ rings being replaced and when this proved a temporary fix, further repairs to the ‘o’ rings involved adding a steel filled epoxy putty to try and give a smoother surface in the cylinder head valve seat pocket for the exhaust valve seat ‘o’ rings to seal against.
After ten days of running repairs the crew were exhausted and the Chief Engineer concluded that it was beyond their ability, with the tools and spares to hand, to carry out effective repairs and resolve the problem.
Further water leakage, rising cooling water temperatures and fluctuating pressure meant that the generators were stopped causing the vessel to blackout. For the next three days it was not possible to run the refrigeration plant to maintain the cargo temperature between ports, with the exception of the cargo fans on fresh air.
After extensive discussions with the crew and inspection of the vessel, the generators and constituent parts, Brendan concluded that the water leaks had occurred as a result of corrosion to the valve seat pockets in the cylinder heads. His further investigations established that this was because of the failure to maintain an adequate reserve or corrosion inhibitor within the freshwater cooling system.
He discovered that no corrosion inhibitor (Dieselguard NB powder) has been supplied to the vessel for almost two years, and while the consumptions were recorded in the Monthly Report of Monthly Chemical and Gas Consumption as adequate, they took no account of the amount of make-up water being added to the system due to losses from leakages and maintenance.
Furthermore, he discovered that while monthly water test reports were submitted by the vessel, indicating that an adequate reserve of chemical was being maintained, in reality the tests had often not taken place and the records submitted were false.
As a surveyor, Brendan provides expert inspection, comprehensive surveying and consultancy services, helping clients by quantifying damage and repairs, helping to settle liability disputes and claims.
In this case he was able to provide the client with a detailed report outlining the timeline and series of errors that had led to the generator engines failure, which then enabled the ship operator to address the serious operational failings.
Cargo ventilation good practice guide – updated and re-published
Our two experts, David Anderson and Daniel Sheard, working in conjunction with North P&I Club have updated and re-published the acclaimed loss prevention guide “Cargo Ventilation – A Guide to Good Practice”.
The guide provides invaluable advice to shipowners and seafarers on ventilating cargoes. It explains the principles of ventilation, both in practical and scientific terms, as well as providing a ship’s master with the knowledge they need to decide when to ventilate and when not to, tackling a few common myths along the way.
The second edition builds on that solid foundation, with added sections that stress the importance of maintaining accurate ventilation records.
Please contact North P&I for more details.
Highest Honours for Luigi Petrone
This month we congratulate Luigi Petrone Ph.D, our senior scientist and coatings consultant on successfully passing the ICorr Level 3 Coatings Inspector examination. This accolade is the highest award for coatings inspectors aiming for recognition as leaders in their field. ICorr Level 3 inspectors are both highly skilled and experienced in coating failure analysis, surface preparation and cleanliness, test instruments, coating specifications, interpretation of normative documents, and safety. In addition, they will have proven their technical knowledge and problem solving ability across a range of issues that may arise on site. Congratulations, Luigi!
Spotlight on Scientific and Cargo Expertise
At Brookes Bell, scientists provide unrivalled technical knowledge relating to the transportation of all types of commodities. Martin Jonas, Director of Science UK, and Tim Moss, Director of Science Asia, share how their team tackles loss prevention, especially for dangerous cargo, and utilise their specialist expertise for cargo claims.
Many things can go wrong with commodities when transported by sea. Perishable commodities such as soya beans are commonly damaged by self-heating during the voyage arising from high moisture at loading or delays en route; transportation of bulk commodities such as fertilisers can turn dangerous when they start to undergo self-sustaining decomposition, releasing large amounts of toxic gases and thermal energy in the process; minerals such as iron or nickel ores may abruptly liquify during shipping and pose dangers for the vessel.
One unique aspect of our team at Brookes Bell is that we have a broad team of high-calibre scientists with decades of specialised experience in various commodities, as well as specialist knowledge in coating, fire and marine biology. With our industry reputation, we are also usually called in during maritime litigations to provide expert witness opinions and evidence.
When it comes to loss prevention, particularly for dangerous cargo, many shippers are unfortunately unaware of the regulations involved. Moreover, poor handling and storage of spoilable cargo will frequently result in large losses and huge claims.
With our strong in-depth knowledge and scientific cargo expertise, we assist our clients with interpreting and meeting the regulatory requirements for the transportation of bulk cargo under the International Maritime Solid Bulk Cargoes (IMSBC) Code, as well as shipment of dangerous chemicals under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG) Code, as laid out by the International maritime Organization (IMO).
In addition, we regularly advise shipowners and insurers on the appropriate storage and transport conditions for bulk foodstuffs including grains, soybeans, sugar and how to mitigate losses from damages such as deterioration, spoilage, heating and contamination, and provide expert advice to commodity traders in contractual quality disputes between cargo buyers and sellers and expert evidence in GAFTA or FOSFA arbitrations.
Similarly, we also have the expertise for the categorisation and declaration of dangerous goods, and we can also assist with the UN Standard Tests which define the hazard classes.
Our team also work closely with our other divisions at Brookes Bell to provide clients with a truly multidisciplinary and integrated approach to cargo transportation or dispute resolution. This allows us to apply the highest standards of scientific and technical knowledge to even the most difficult situations.
Putting our expertise to the test, our team was recently called in when a bulk carrier carrying soybeans from South America to China experienced engine damage midway during transportation. Working together with the other divisions, we promptly flew our team to the South African port that the vessel had docked at, to assess the engine damage as it underwent repairs. However, it was a race against time as the soybeans that the vessel was carrying were starting to show early signs of spoilage.
With our strong practical experience, we were able to advise the shipowners accordingly and facilitated the successful trans-shipment of the soya beans to another vessel. Due to the timely intervention, the soybeans were still in good condition when discharged, thereby helping our client avoid a potential cargo claim that could go up to tens of millions of dollars.
Besides loss prevention, we also provide expert witness opinions and manage disputes whenever there is a claim.
All spoilable cargo will be naturally damaged over time, even when stored in the most optimal conditions. Our team’s strong technical knowledge allows us to accurately determine the root cause, be it natural or human error and accurately assess the damage. For more complex or unusual cases, we are able to tap into the wide range of in-house disciplines available at Brookes Bell to reconstruct the situation.
Our team is also highly focused and experienced in the art of evidence gathering. This is essential for arbitration in maritime cases as they can usually end up in hefty claims, especially when evidence presented is incomplete or lacks the sufficient analysis and rigour.
Using their trained eyes, our Brookes Bell scientists are able to go into the scene and objectively assess the situation and gather the right type of evidence.
With offices in Asia and the UK, our team of scientists also often provide round the clock real-time support and monitoring – please get in touch with us to find out how we can help.
Creation of Expert Witnesses Forum in Asia to Support Maritime Arbitration in the Region
Our head of Asia, John Gibson, explains why the region needs a platform for maritime expert witnesses to underpin the growth and development of shipping services in Singapore and beyond.
Historically, London has been the go-to place for international maritime arbitration. This comes as no surprise with its long history as one of the leading shipping centres in the world and its excellent geographical location. Even today, London continues to attract more than 80% of maritime disputes worldwide.
In 2019, the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) received a total of 2,952 arbitration appointments, up from 2,599 in 2018. Even against the coronavirus backdrop, arbitration appointments are ongoing, with LMAA using web conferencing and remote hearings to get things done.
Similarly, this has continued the rise in demand for expert witnesses in London as the need for maritime arbitration grows.
Just last month, the Baltic Expert Witness Association (BEWA) was launched in London, as users of its previous Baltic Exchange Expert Witness Panel, including lawyers and P&I clubs, identified the need for a centralised and defined avenue where expert witnesses could be found.
However, while there are Expert Witness Institutes and the BEWA in London, there has been a lack of an equivalent institute in Asia Pacific to promote the professional standards of experts witness in the region to support the growth of maritime arbitrations in Asia.
While London still leads as the venue of choice for international maritime arbitrations, there are moves towards Asia.
In particular, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore are in the spotlight, having been named among the top five port cities in the world for three consecutive years according to the 2019 Xinhua-Baltic International Shipping Centre Development Index.
The growth of these Asian port cities, as major maritime centres, has allowed maritime arbitrations to grow in tandem in the region. Despite London’s strong status as an international maritime arbitration center, these cities are gearing up with strong competitive advantages for maritime litigation.
According to the London Arbitrators Association, Singapore Arbitrators Association and New York Arbitrators Association, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore have attracted the highest number of maritime arbitrators behind London. These cities are also home to some of the largest concentrations of maritime law firms in the world, based on data from Legal 500 and Chambers.
Maritime arbitration is developing rapidly in Asia as the nature of many cases requires a deep understanding of the geographical nuances and Asian context to navigate them successfully.
Handling a casualty, and the aftermath, can be very complex as it is likely to involve a range of expertise such as marine engineering, naval architecture, fire response and investigation and metallurgy amongst many other skills.
A regionally based institute will be able to provide support for experts from all professional disciplines and other occupations requiring skills and judgements to appear in courts and tribunals in Asia Pacific. The presence of an institute will also encourage lawyers to engage these expert witnesses with confidence wherever their specialised knowledge is required. We believe the time has come for such an institute.
Membership should be extended to qualified professionals from any discipline, practicing experts with relevant qualifications and references from lawyers and courts, actual experts who have gained experience, as well as lawyers or professionals who deal with and engage experts.
Meet the Team – Mike Liu, Fuel Chemist
Having joined Brookes Bell in late 2018, it has been a wonderful journey for me in my role as a fuel chemist so far. Personally, it has been a fulfilling experience as my role now brings me on board vessels – something that I could never experience in my previous jobs. In many ways, it was also big step up from my previous role as a Technical Services Manager handling fuel and lubricant solutions.
In particular, 2020 has been an exciting year for me, especially with the implementation of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s low sulphur requirement which took effect on 1 January. With the implementation of IMO 2020, the shipping industry has seen an unprecedented increase in bunker disputes. As many start to use the new Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) to meet the new requirement, it has resulted in widespread impact for all players, ranging from suppliers to shipowners.
As a fuel chemist, it has been a very busy period with a spike in the number of claims and arbitration for engine breakdowns. Just in the first half of this year, about 70-80% of the bunker fuel disputes I attended came from purification issues or engine breakdowns from using the new low-sulphur fuels. Many of these claims are newly observed issues associated with the implementation of the VLSFO, and the full extent of the issues is still not clear.
In order to tackle the root cause of these issues, fuel chemists need to have a keen scientific understanding of different fuels and their chemical components. Luckily, my experience in previous roles has given me an in-depth technical understanding of bunker fuels to investigate and test the samples accurately, allowing me to successfully defend against many claims on behalf of my clients.
Furthermore, a unique aspect of Brookes Bell is that we work in a multi-disciplinary team which allows us to adopt a multi-faceted approach to resolving a dispute. This allows me to work closely with my colleagues from the other divisions such as marine engineers to advise our clients holistically. This has also benefited me greatly since we can share our thoughts and knowledge across the teams to address new challenges arising from the new fuel, which allows us to service our clients better.
Despite the ongoing challenges that VLSFO bring to the maritime industry, I see a lot of potential for it to be a viable fuel as scientists are still exploring ways to improve the existing formulation. Undoubtedly, IMO 2020 is a step in the right direction towards greater environmental sustainability.
Looking ahead into the future, we need to prepare ourselves for challenges that future fuels such as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and ammonia may bring. Though they may be cheaper and greener than current fuels, future fuels currently carry a certain safety risk for shipping during storage and combustion. However, I am excited for what the future may bring for the maritime industry as we prepare for IMO 2030.