Ian Konrad, Belle Chasse

A focus on sustainable practices: streamlining bulk lubricant deliveries in the Gulf of Mexico

Ian Konrad, Business Development, Belle Chasse Marine Transportation

The marine industry is facing growing demands to develop more sustainable ways of operating. As a result, many established practices are being called into question, including the bulk delivery of lubricants.

Ships arriving at the Port of Houston have traditionally received their lubricants in one of two ways: at the dock or in pre-packaged 55-gallon drums. As a ship’s time in dock is precious, making bulk lubricant deliveries dock-side is not always ideal or efficient. On the other hand, receiving lubricants in packaged drums is costly and less environmentally responsible.

IMO 2020 compounded the challenge. As vessel operators began to switch fuels in order to comply with the new regulations, ship engineers required large quantities of new lubricants to manage the change-over to compliant fuel formulations. The global pandemic that began in 2020 resulted in even greater supply chain challenges.

ExxonMobil’s lubricants distributor in the Gulf of Mexico, Belle Chasse Marine, offers a solution: the only dedicated lubricants tanker in the Gulf of Mexico capable of making bulk deliveries to ships waiting in designated offshore anchorage locations for clearance to enter the port.

Offering an offshore delivery service near Houston has changed the ordering patterns of many ships. Receiving products near their point of origin in Texas reduces the amount of transportation these products require. This ultimately shortens the supply chain and is merging an economic and environmental benefit together.

Making large deliveries allows ships to avoid secondary deliveries at other ports. Furthermore, concentrating deliveries to a small area offshore maximises distribution efficiency with every delivery. Being able to make multiple deliveries in a single pass to this area saves on fuel and emissions. This practice was not possible without the use of specialised offshore delivery equipment able to service the Houston anchorages.

There are additional advantages, too. Many liquefied natural gas ships are forbidden from bulk transfers at the terminal due to their potentially hazardous cargo operations, so a launch boat service is often used to deliver a pallet of lubricant drums. Using an offshore barge service overcomes this shortcoming by providing a safe and sustainable alternative. Utilising industry best practices, Belle Chasse Marine is conducting deliveries to liquefied natural gas ships several miles offshore, far from any terminal or shoreside risks.

Bulk offshore deliveries help optimise the marine lubricants’ supply chain, benefitting both customers and the environment, while also providing vessel operators with greater flexibility about where to resupply their vessels, saving them both time and dock fees.