Where stating a standard is doubly important is when placing a vessel on time charter. The time charterer will wish to economise as keenly as the owner/manager but the charterer does not have to worry about any long-term damage the wrong fuel may cause. Thus a clear standard has to be set and the crew briefed to ensure that the standard is adhered to. Failure to do so, apart from any risk of damage to the machinery, a poor fuel will give poor speed/consumption figures and this is the most fruitful area for time charter disputes without adding the effects of bad fuel to the debate. Cost. As mentioned earlier cost and quality run together but how does one get the optimum of best quality at lowest cost? Obviously by choosing the right supplier. How does one achieve this? It is far from easy. In major ports one finds the big names in the oil world but they are not necessarily the cheapest. There is no short cut, like so much in the business of shipping, knowing one’s market is paramount. To take an example, the supplier directory for the UK list no less than 72 names. All the majors are in the list but many of the lesser known names are classified as “traders”. These companies purchase their supplies as and when required at the best possible price and then resell at (hopefully) a profit to themselves. Simply looking at the names gives no indication of the standing of the individual companies. One way to overcome one’s own ignorance is to employ a bunker broker and there are several of these; many of whom have an established reputation for market skill and fair dealing as well as the knowledge to give appropriate advice when a ship is venturing to unknown territories. Pollution. When talking of oil pollution one tends to think in terms of tankers grounding or careless ballast dumping but careless bunkering is often cited as causing oil spills. Not the catastrophes such as “Erika” or “Prestige” but damaging just the same. Under the headings of MARPOL or the ISM Code most owners will have procedures for the crew to follow. These are vital so that simple mistakes like failing to tighten hose connections fully or directing oil into a bunker tank that is already full or failing to seal deck scuppers, do not happen.