Report: Fuel Loaded on Dali in New York Before Accident Met Specs

Dali Baltimore
Report suggests fuel might have not caused the Dali's power problems (NTSB)

Published Apr 5, 2024 7:32 PM by The Maritime Executive


While there has been much speculation that the Dali’s power problems could have been caused by fuel contamination, a new report is saying that the fuel loaded on the containership a week before the allision in Baltimore tested within specifications. NBC News reported today that it has seen the fuel test results and shared them with experts who agreed “This is a very healthy fuel.”

NBC News interviewed Centerline Logistics which supplied the fuel to the Dali while the vessel was in New York on March 19. They were told that the Dali loaded a total of 400,000 gallons made up of both marine gas oil and very low sulfur fuel while in the Port of New York. It had previously been reported that the Dali fueled in South Korea and China in February, and according to FuelTrust, a company focused on the maritime fuel supply chain, the ship did not bunker while at the Panama Canal, although it was unclear if they had fueled in New York, Norfolk, or Baltimore.

Centerline shared with NBC News fuel tests done both at the terminal in New Jersey where its barge received the fuel and tests again done when the fuel was transferred to the Dali. NBC is reporting that independent experts with whom it shared the reports confirmed the quality of the fuel. They quote an expert who reviewed the results saying that the amount of water and other impurities detected in the fuel were “well within acceptable ranges.”

Testing laboratories highlight however that normal tests on fuel do not always detect certain impurities. The 2022 incident in Singapore for example required a more sophisticated test to isolate the particular contaminants. In Singapore, more than 200 ships experienced problems, while Centerline told NBC it has not received any reports of fuel problems from vessels bunkered in New York at the same time as the Dali.

Observers looking at the video leading up to the collision speculated that the blackout could have been caused by fuel contamination. The lights appear to come back on as a backup generator starts and a large amount of dark smoke is coming from the vessel’s funnel. The lights however then go out again and come back on for a second time. The timeline released by the NTSB says the vessel lost propulsion and never regained it in the minutes leading up to when it hit the bridge. 

Typically, a ship after receiving fuel holds it to settle it and reconfirm quality with additional tests. NBC admits that it is unclear if the Dali may have fueled elsewhere or if she was operating on the fuel received in New York. Centerline told NBC that Maersk, which was the time charterer of the Dali, ordered the fuel for the bunkering in New York.

It has been previously reported that the Dali was sailing on marine gas oil as it was departing Baltimore. This would be consistent with normal operations where ships use MGO to reduce emissions in port.

The National Transportation Safety Board commented that in its fact finding it would collect samples of the fuel aboard the ship. They planned to conduct tests, the results of which are yet to be released. Centerline also told NBC that they had also offered samples of the fuel to the U.S. Coast Guard on the same day that the Dali hit the bridge. So far, they said the USCG has not requested the samples.

The Coast Guard, NTSB, and Maersk all declined to comment to NBC News.