Court ruling welcomed by Dutch bunker players

(Bunkerworld) There has been another court ruling accepting that de-bunkered fuel need not be treated as waste.

The Dutch State Council, which acts as the court of appeal for the Netherlands, has ruled that officials from the country’s Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) were wrong to order the destruction of 800 metric tonnes (mt) of bunker product.

It also found that the ILT had wrongfully detained the vessel that had received the fuel.

The ruling, published last week, comes four months after a similar decision by the European Court of Justice.

Bunker players have been increasingly worried by signs the Dutch inspectors were prepared to treat off-spec, or de-bunkered fuel, as waste.

The implications were regarded as deeply worrying for the bunker sector as designating fuel as ‘waste’ effectively rendered it valueless.

Insiders argued that destroying off-spec fuel defied common sense and could be financially crippling. They said that in almost every case the product could be brought on spec by re-blending.

Some observers even warned that the issue could damage Rotterdam‘s reputation as a global bunker hub.

Despite the two rulings, a Denmark-based maritime lawyer, Johannes Grove Nielsen, told a bunker conference last week that the industry was “not in the clear.”

He told the 35th International Bunker Conference in Copenhagen that theEuropean Union (EU) had issued new directives on waste and that there might still be scope for maritime jurisdictions to interpret the rules in different ways.

The latest ruling, given by the Dutch State Council, involved a stem delivered in Rotterdam in 2012 to a vessel on charter to Stena Weco – a joint venture between Stena Bulk and Weco.

The Council upheld Stena Weco’s appeals against the original rulings by the Dutch authorities that had designated the product as waste, leaving the way open for Stena Weco to claim damages.

“This ruling helps to straighten out some uncertainties about off spec bunkers and de-bunkerings in the Netherlands,” Lars Malmbratt, General Manager of Stena Bulk’s bunker division told Bunkerworld.

“Before this ruling, the only criteria for having a ship detained and the fuel classified as waste was a statement from a ships representative that they had bunkers onboard which they were not able to burn. For example, an on spec 380 centistokes (cSt) fuel supplied to a vessel that stemmed 180 cSt  fuel could result in a total loss of the product.”