A Greek shipowner is accusing Glencore of providing another bad batch of bunkers.

Serifos Maritime Corp, the registered owner of the 309,774-dwt tanker Serifos (built 2009), filed a lawsuit in the US federal court for the Southern District of New York, alleging the bunkering giant passed off contaminated fuel four years after it was involved in a string of lawsuits over the same issue.

“Based in part on its prior knowledge from the 2018 dilemma, Glencore, as a bunker fuel oil producer, knew it must ensure that the bunkers conform with the specifications … and also knew well the potential life-threatening hazards which non-compliant bunkers can pose to an ocean-going vessel,” the complaint, filed on 20 September, said.

“If a manufacturer of bunker fuel becomes aware of indicators that the products used as blends in the bunkers may contain impermissible components that are not produced in petroleum refining, it is incumbent on the manufacturer to determine the nature, source and concentration of the chemicals in the component product.”

The Serifos picked up fuel in Singapore for a voyage to Gabon in March 2022, putting it in the same tank as some previously spent bunkers.

Testing following the delivery found small amounts of organic chlorides typically found in solvents and metal degreasers.

Serifos Maritime argued that even small amounts of those chlorides can cause issues to a ship and its crew and said the VLCC began experiencing “significant” engine issues, forcing it to divert multiple times to test and exchange the fuel.

Citing “industry sources”, Serifos Maritime said Glencore knew about the contamination as early as February 2022 and said several laboratories had found contaminants.

“Despite this knowledge, Glencore took no action to rectify the problem with the vessels it had stemmed. Glencore failed to advise the previously stemmed vessels of the significant risks those ships faced if the contaminated fuel was consumed,” the complaint said.

According to a string of lawsuits filed in recent years, Valero allegedly provided Glencore a bad batch of fuel in 2018 that was supplied to more than 100 ships.

Valero argued it had received the fuel from Trafigura already contaminated.

In one of the lawsuits, a tanker was left to drift in the open ocean for two-and-a-half days due to engine issues. Another alleged engine failure had it drifting for four days.

In one of the lawsuits, a judge ruled against Navig8’s VLCC pool, in part because the matter was not ready to adjudicate.

Glencore declined to comment on this story.

Serifos Maritime accuses Glencore of breach of contract, negligence, intentional misrepresentation and product liability charges. It seeks unspecified damages.

The Serifos is flagged in Liberia and is managed by Aeolos Management of Greece, which shares an Athens address with Serifos Maritime.

The company is represented by Tisdale & Nast of New York.

The US District Court for the Southern District of New York is a key US forum for shipping disputes. Its main courthouse is located in Manhattan. Photo: Ken Lund/Creative Commons