To power the engines of large ships, fuel is poured into the bunker of the ship. When crude oil is refined to take the light hydrocarbons out for other uses such as gasoline, the remains are used to power ships. This heavy, residual oil can cause a bunker pollution accident if spilled.
This heavy fuel comes in A, B or C grades. The most vicious, thick fuel is classified as a C. To make it flow, ships blend it or heat it by mixing with a fuel 10% lighter. Ships rely on this cheaper fuel since they purchase it by the ton.
The problem happens when there is a leak or spill. Cargo ships travel hundreds of miles over open waters where storms rage and accidents are possible. The most-famous spill is the Exxon Valdez spill still causing problems in the Prince William Sound nearly three decades later. Because the oil is thick, it doesn’t easily evaporate making it easy for it to travel long distances.
When a spill happens, the harmful vapors released can cause vision and fertility problems in humans. The website www.wqis.com states that bunker oil can escape or discharge resulting in fuel spills.
A bunker pollution accident is a possibility for any vessel traveling with fuel in the bunker. Insurance is part of an effective risk management policy.