Over a year has passed since the use of mass flow meters (MFM) became mandatory for marine fuel oil deliveries in Singapore. According to IBIA’s regional manager, Simon Neo, the use of MFM has so far proven to be reliable and believes most shipowners would agree. He adds: “Most if not all of the suppliers in Singapore are now settled into using MFM.”
Prior to Singapore’s wholesale introduction of MFM there was considerable speculation as to whether there would still be significant demand for the services of surveyors. Neo comments: “I understand that some bunker surveying companies in Singapore lost business last year as bunker buyers cut costs by not engaging them. But on the other hand, we have also heard there are other surveying companies in Singapore which are asking for more surveyors due to an increase in. demand. This could be due to many reasons but one of the most common is that ships’ engineers are not trained or well versed in MFM. Documentation checks are an important component of the MFM system, which is why a good bunker surveyor with very good knowledge of the MFM system and procedures will help make the job much easier for the engineers onboard the receiving vessel.”
He adds: “There is also the sampling of the bunker fuel that been delivered to the vessel which needs to be looked at and where the surveyor’s assistance can be invaluable. Also required procedures such as the sealing and piping checks can take a fair bit of time that the engineers may not have. Carrying out these checks is very important as it is the integrity of the whole MFM system that we are talking about.”
On the subject of the integrity of the whole system, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has taken robust action against companies where irregularities have been discovered. So has MPA tightened its procedures to stop circumvention of the MFM? Neo says: “The Technical Committee (Bunkering), Working Group for MFM and MPA together are working on tightening the procedures, system integrity, security and sealing of the MFM. These new standards will, we hope, be ready before SIBCON 2018.”
In March last year, soon after MFM became mandatory, mutual liability insurer North of England P&I Association flagged up potential problems and said that ships should continue to take soundings onboard before and after bunker delivery. “The introduction of MFM for bunker operation in Singapore is a welcome development. Unfortunately it appears that although the equipment has changed,
the behaviour of some unscrupulous suppliers has not,” the P&I
Commenting on reports that MPA had discovered pipework irregularities, North of England said: “One implication of such piping fixture irregularities may be that they allow some quantity of bunkers to be siphoned back into the bunker tanker tanks whilst bunkering is in progress. This would mean that the amount registered on the MFM totalizer is greater than that delivered to the vessel, with the vessel receiving less than that recorded. Piping fixtures form an integral part of the MFM system, as specified in the Technical Reference for Bunker Mass Flow Metering (TR48). One of the roles of the bunker surveyor is to check the integrity of this system.”
While bunker tankers no longer accept ships’ figures based on soundings, the P&I club advised: “Soundings should still be taken onboard before and after bunker delivery and, in case of a difference between the vessel figures and the BDN, letters of protest should be issued. Bunker suppliers will not usually accept these letters of protest or will refuse to sign. But in the event of a dispute, they are evidence to show a difference between the MFM figure and the figure obtained by the sounding method. Charterers should be informed of any difference immediately.”
However, while even tighter procedures may be in the offing, MPA has
already showed it is not prepared to tolerate irregularities.In November it revoked the bunker supplier and bunker craft operator licences of Transocean Oil Pte Ltd, meaning that the company is no longer allowed to operate as a bunker supplier and bunker craft operator in the Port of Singapore.
According to MPA, as part of its “ongoing regulatory efforts to ensure the integrity of bunkering in Singapore”, checks were conducted on Transocean in March and April last year. MPA’s investigations revealed that there were several falsifications of records and discrepancies in the stock movement logbooks on board the bunker tankers operated by Transocean, which breached the terms and conditions of their
bunker supplier and bunker craft operator licences.
Earlier, in August, MPA had taken tough action against two other companies. It announced that it would not be renewing the bunker supplier licences of Panoil Petroleum Pte Ltd and Universal Energy Pte Ltd when they expired on 31 August 2017. According to MPA, Panoil made unauthorised alterations on the pipelines of their bunker tankers and had accumulated demerit points for non-compliances with the bunkering procedures.Separately, Universal Energy had accumulated demerit points for delivery of bunkers that were severely aerated as well as for stoppages during bunkering operations.
MPA explained that, with the demerit points accumulated, the two companies had failed to be accredited under the Accreditation Scheme for Bunker Suppliers, a key requirement for the renewal of bunker licences under the terms and conditions of the licences. Again, both companies are no longer allowed to operate as a bunker supplier and bunker craft operator in Singapore.
The MPA warned all licensed bunker suppliers and bunker craft operators to “adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of their bunker licences”. MPA said it would take firm action, including suspension or revocation of licences, against any bunker company that contravened the licensing conditions.
Contact one of the World Bunkering team.