Fuel Contamination at Nuku Alofa – Tonga

Published 14 years ago, updated 6 years ago

We just completed a stormy passage from Nuku Alofa to New Zealand on our Freya 39, the DEVA. We were one of about 5 boats left in the Southern Tonga group attempting to get to NZ before the cyclone season.

One of the major difficulties we encountered was the result of contaminated fuel taken at the “Total” station wharfside in Nuku Alofa.

In many years of cruising this is the worst instance, I have seen. Normally we are quite careful with testing and filtering fuel on delivery but we were a little careless this time in our haste to get out of Tonga before a developing low-pressure system.

A few hours out we started getting water and rusty, black particles in the fuel separators. I took an inspection port off the main tank and suctioned 3 gallons of water and rusty sediment out of the tank using an onboard pump and polishing system. Even so, some of the contamination went through our filtration system and fouled our injectors, resulting in damage that we are trying to repair here in Opua NZ.

Our tank was tested and cleaned before arrival Tonga, so this is the only place it would have come into our boat.

My advice is for boaters in Tonga to avoid this “Total” fuel station or get a thorough check and sample of the fuel before taking it into their tanks.


Michael Spence


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