Fuel Problems Force Containership to Divert for Emergency Repairs
A South Korean containership was forced to turn around in the Pacific and seek a port of refuge after reportedly suffering an engine problem that is being blamed on a fuel problem. SM Line’s SM Busan, a 6622 TEU containership, arrived in Victoria, Canada where officials are reporting the vessel may spend up to a month undergoing repairs.
The 80,555 dwt containership had departed Portland, Oregon on December 18 for its return voyage across the Pacific after having unloaded in Oregon and Los Angeles. The Canadian Coast Guard, which was monitoring the situation, reported that the vessel began to encounter problems in the Pacific as soon as December 20, but resumed its voyage only to experience additional problems. It was not “running optimally and unable to maintain top speed.”
After drifting for two days in the Pacific beginning on Christmas Eve, the vessel began the return voyage toward Canada. Under Transport Canada regulations she was required to have a tugboat escort to enter coastal waters and proceed to port. Two Seaspan tugs were seen standing by the vessel.
The SM Busan reached the area off Victoria on Vancouver Island on January 1, but due to high winds was forced to anchor off. She was able to proceed to the dock Sunday morning under her own power. She docked at Ogden Point, with the port authority highlighting that she was the first vessel to use mooring extensions that had been put in place to accommodate larger vessels.
The port agent for the vessel told the CHEK news outlet in Victoria that they would be pumping the oil out of the vessel’s tanks before repairs could begin on her engines. They are also planning to clean the vessel’s tanks during the stay in Victoria.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority expects that the SM Busan will remain for up to a month while it undergoes repairs. The agent said that the vessel was largely transporting empty containers back to Korea on the current voyage. In addition to adding the call in Portland to its schedule to help with port congestion delays, SM Line reports that it has been operating extra vessels carrying automobile parts, batteries, chemicals, furniture, home appliances, and cosmetics to help South Korean exporters to deal with the shortage of capacity on the Pacific.
It is unclear when the vessel fueled, however uncommon reports of fuel problems fouling operations do occur. At the beginning of 2021, Maersk filed suit over off-spec fuel alleging contamination that caused damages to two of its containerships. The industry group BIMCO also reported increased problems in a 2020 survey after the conversion to new very low sulfur fuel formulations. The data showed nearly one-third of companies surveyed reported increased wear in engine components, and 18 percent reported fuel pump seizures. Ten percent reported blackouts or propulsion failures related to fuel oil properties.