Quality issues threaten New Zealand fuel security

Maritime professionals say there is potential for serious quality issues with New Zealand’s fuel supply if New Zealand’s two coastal tankers are removed from service.

Following the announced closure of the Marsden Point oil refinery, individual petrol companies are planning to import fuel directly to New Zealand ports on overseas tankers.

Merchant Service Guild National Vice President Captain Iain MacLeod says there are concerns about the volatile nature of refined fuel which means deliveries can be “off spec” and do not meet local standards for use.

“In November 2021, an import cargo of jet fuel arrived in Wellington and was found off spec and rejected. A cargo from Marsden Point was diverted and the inventory was replaced with local cargo. During that time Wellington was low in jet fuel.”

Captain MacLeod says New Zealand coastal tankers were available to assist in a prompt way with this event, but if New Zealand was dependent on overseas tankers, this would no longer be the case.

He says fuel companies have to explain how they will cope with an off spec cargo without the refinery and New Zealand coastal tankers.
“Regional ports do not have the storage capacity to hold an off spec cargo until a solution is resolved.”

Captain MacLeod says it is even more likely that refined fuel coming from overseas refineries in the Northern Hemisphere will degrade.

“The lighter components in volatile products including jet fuel evaporate at a higher rate in warmer temperatures, and a journey of up to two weeks across the Equator would increase this risk.”

Captain MacLeod says the maritime industry is urging the Government to intervene and ensure New Zealand coastal tankers are kept in service to protect national fuel security.

The campaign for fuel security Save Our Tankers is comprised of the Maritime Union of New Zealand representing seafarers, the New Zealand Merchant Service Guild representing ship’s masters and officers, and the Aviation and Marine Engineers Association representing marine engineers.

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