Bunkering or Refuelling.: Do you know the dangers?


Bunkering (refuelling) operations present a high-risk factor especially when refuelling petrol powered vessels. An explosion after refuelling an outboard powered charter vessel resulted in the Master suffering serious burns.


While petrol is highlighted diesel does not have the same flash point, but it is still a flammable liquid with the potential to cause serious injuries and damage to vessels.

Let’s look at some of the risk factors for petrol fuelled vessels.

Petrol vapours are denser than air so any vapours can accumulate in your bilge or other areas which are not properly vented. When petrol vapours mix with air the mixture becomes explosive.

Exposure of accumulated petrol vapours to an ignition source has the potential to cause an explosion and/or fire. The result is potentially catastrophic with serious injury to loss of life, damage to or loss of vessel, damage to infrastructure and environmental damage.

Potential ignition sources include:

  • Smoking, naked flames or pilot lights
  • Communication equipment, e.g., mobile phones
  • Portable electrical equipment
  • Fixed electrical systems
  • Hot work which includes welding, cutting, grinding, etc.
  • Hot surfaces, e.g., exhaust pipes, flues and ducting
  • Sparks generated by mechanical means, e.g., hammers, etc.
  • Static electricity 

To reduce the risk of explosion:

  • Ensure the fuel system complies with the applicable standards
  • Undertake regular inspections of the fuel system
  • Prevent the build-up of vapours by ventilating any area where they could occur
  • Removing or isolating all ignition sources
  • Ensure all electric equipment maintained

A guide to refuelling

In Australia all bunkering/refuelling operations must be carried out in accordance with AS1940:2017.

Below is a basic guide to preparing for refuelling your vessel.

  • Shut down the main engine/s
  • Ensure firefighting equipment is at hand
  • Ensure spill kit is available
  • Ensure adequate lighting is available
  • Block scuppers/freeing ports
  • Close hatches and doors (especially on petrol powered vessels)
  • Ensure all hot works have ceased on the vessel, adjacent vessels and within 20mtrs
  • Ensure all electric appliances are off within 20mtrs
  • Turn off mobile phones
  • Ensure no smoking withing 10mtrs 
  • Estimate the amount of fuel required
  • Ensure the fuel about to be delivered is diesel or unleaded as required
  • Check hose for leaks or damage
  • Where camlocks are not used ensure contact is maintained between the nozzle and the filler pipe; and
  • At all times the nozzle must be hand operated. 

The above is a list of precautionary steps to ensure safe refuelling practices but there are other items that must be considered including where the refuelling is being undertaken, is it at a:

  • Shore-based facility (marina, etc.)
  • Road fuel tanker
  • Fuel barge or mother ship
  • Roadside fuel service station
  • Or are you using Jerri Cans

The results of not following procedures

Shorlink’s Recommendation

Number one recommendation is to ensure you undertake safe refuelling practices at all times in accordance with AS1940:2017.

No matter where you refuel you must comply with the supplier’s procedure for dispensing fuel no matter if it’s a marina, other shore-based facility, road tanker, fuel barge or mothership!


Best tip is to recognise the refuelling procedure is a critical component of every vessels SMS so take the time to get it right. If you’re having problems with putting a refuelling procedure together don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or help to develop your procedure.