Nigel Draffin
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IBIA, how did we get here?

Nigel Draffin recalls the International Bunker Industry Association's first 30 years

In 1988, as a member of the OCIMF observer group, I attended an IMO meeting of the Bulk Liquids and Gases (BLG) Sub-Committee, discussing potential regulation of atmospheric pollution from sulphur oxides. The delegates present included a number of people who I would meet again at the first Singapore International Bunkering Conference (SIBCON) later that year.

February 15, 2023

It was at the 1992 SIBCON that the idea of a bunker industry association was informally discussed. The lead in developing this idea was taken by Doug Barrow, who decided that a small group of industry professionals representing each sector of the industry should progress that idea to see if there was an appetite to create an association.


If I remember correctly, we met initially at the Churchill Hotel in London and this group (the steering group) had representatives from fuel suppliers, traders, brokers, deliverers, ship operators, fuel analysis laboratories, P&I clubs, marine law firms and credit reporting agencies. From the start it was clear that we wanted an industry-wide association rather than a trade body. Two of us worked for oil majors (one on the ship operation side and the other on technical support for bunker sales) and our employers were happy for us to engage with certain provisos – the use of an anti-trust statement read out before each meeting and that neither of us could be responsible for any portfolio covering technical or commercial issues. That is how Bob Thornton got the Environment working group and I got Safety!


The group created a proposed structure where the association would be run by a council of management elected by the members. The members could be individuals or commercial companies, and any specific issues raised would be dealt with by working groups of interested members reporting back to the Council of Management who in turn reported to the membership. Our first (unpaid) administrator was David Barnet and we operated out of an office in Kingston upon Thames.


We decided to formally launch at a convention which was held at the Disney World resort in Orlando – using the facilities of the Swan and Dolphin hotels. Much of the credit for the arrangements should go to Llewellyn Bankes-Hughes (who attended the steering group on behalf of his boss, Stuart Kenner of MRC who was not well enough to attend at the time). Was it his idea to launch a serious maritime association at Disneyland? You will have to ask him. In any event, it worked!

Doug Barrow wore a big badge saying I.B.I.A. and told us all that the letters stood for “I Believe In Action”. We had a couple of hundred attendees, a tremendous programme, good discussions and a grand time – I still have memories of Bob Thornton (then with Exxon) and Pat Studdert (Buffalo Marine) singing “All my Exes live in Texas”. We ended up with a membership of hundreds and the start of the first truly international bunker industry association.


Doug, elected as Chairman (because when the group members were asked to step forward if they wanted to be considered, we all took one pace back except Doug who was not concentrating) decreed that each of the initial working groups had to produce one “deliverable” item each year. My Safety group chose to produce a simple bunkering safety card which could be handed to the receiving ship by the deliverer at each bunkering – this was produced, well received and issued in English with a Spanish version contributed by Alejandro Risler of Risler Argentina. The group were great and covered all five continents, I could not have asked for more.


The safety working group demonstrated the need for education and training, so I was encouraged to form an Education working group and out of this grew the IBIA one day basic bunkering course which (much updated) is still in use.


The Council of Management expanded from16 up to an eventual 25 members from whom we had the four officers of the Association: Chairman, Vice Chairman, Immediate Past Chairman and Hon Treasurer. In 2009, the Council of Management was replaced by a Board and the administrator (General Secretary) was replaced by a Chief Executive who became an ex officio member of that board. Our first General Secretary was Peter Goodman and he was succeeded in 2001 by Ian Adams who was a marine engineer and ex seafarer. The early days of volunteers transitioned to a secretariat who dealt with the day to day running of the Association. Special mention should be made of Robert Hough who produced our monthly newsletter which he and his wife valiantly stuffed into envelopes and posted to the membership. Ian actively lobbied for IBIA to have Consultative status at the IMO, which was granted in November 2005 and since that time we have had IBIA representatives at all of the committees, sub-committees and correspondence groups where bunkering related issues are being discussed.


The IBIA Annual Conventions have been the rallying point for members to meet, debate, discuss and party since our first in 1993. Our policy was to move the venue around the globe to maximise the number of members able to attend. We have been to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and to both North and South America.


I remember our 1995 Annual Convention in New Orleans, the trip on a real paddle steamer (where Mike Ball and I spent most of the trip in the engine room), the debates in the conference hall (would you let your son or daughter join our industry? – only one panellist said no) and the jolly time at the Royal Sonesta bar late evening where we were asked by a local about the “bunker industry”. We told him about the bunker supplier from Hartlepool (David Peart) who supplied the best sand for bunkers in the world, the bunker buyer (Ivar Tonnesen) who sourced sand for golf course bunkers around the world, the bunker tester (Chris Fisher) who analysed the sand and the dimensions of each bunker. We kept it up for about 15 minutes and when our friend realised that we might not be telling the truth, he said he wanted to join IBIA as we obviously had much more fun in our association than he had in the Coin Operated Laundromat Operators association!


In 2014 we went to Hamburg for our Annual Convention and had a splendid time, only to see our speaker line-up change very suddenly when some speakers had to leave very quickly to return to Copenhagen and other delegates spent two days on mobile phones dealing with the sudden collapse of OW Bunkers. This did not detract from the discussions or the enjoyment of seeing the IBIA Chairman at the time, Jens Maul Jorgensen, dancing in lederhosen.


The 2019 Convention took place in Istanbul at the magnificent Ciragan Palace Kempinski and was attended by 260 delegates. Apart from the usual mix of session topics, we had a private visit to the Hagia Sophia and a wonderful boat trip on the Bosphorus. The only question was: were we in Europe or in Asia? Well, because of a dinner held near Uskudar, we were in both!

The next two Annual Conventions were virtual, on line, events due to the pandemic. Maybe we were a little ambitious with the 2020 event as we did suffer from technical issues. It was an attempt at a virtual reality offering without the headsets but we probably tried to do too much – the actual presentations and discussions went well but the “networking” was a little problematic. In 2021 we adopted a more conventional approach.


Alas, I was unable to attend the 2022 convention in Houston but I am sure you read about it in the Q4, 2022 issue of World Bunkering.


And now to the IBIA Annual Dinner: Doug thought that an annual dinner in London might boost our profile and give members a chance to socialise. The date chosen was the first night of IP week in 1995, which was Monday February 13 (as it would only have to compete with a couple of non-bunker related alternatives).  IBIA’s Hon Sec. David Peart (whose daughter later worked in the IBIA Secretariat part time) was given the job of organising the event. The Council thought that it was worth going ahead if we could break even with 40 attendees – David said he was very nervous about getting the numbers but we advertised tables of 10 and within two weeks we had sold 15 tables. The final number was over 200 guests and the event was a roaring success.

Over the years, the dinner grew and grew. We quickly outgrew our original venue (The Carlton Tower), migrating to the Intercontinental, the Hilton and then the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane as our number went from 230 to 550 and then 700. In recent years the Annual Dinner has peaked above 1,000 guests. The format changed with the growth in size, changing from a typical formal Black Tie dinner with speeches after the meal to a less formal (but still Black Tie) event with shorter speeches before the meal and a large networking get-together after the meal.


The concept of regional groups was foreseen by the original steering committee and actually started to come together in Singapore through the efforts of local members and the cooperation between IBIA and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore on standards, regulations and especially the initial trials of Mass Flow Metering. Kwok Fook Sing became our regional manager of the IBIA Asia region in 2011. The current regional manager in Asia is Siti Noraini Zaini.


The Asia region has hosted dinners, golf days, local seminars and is very active in training in Singapore and elsewhere in Asia. In 2013, the many years of hard work by members in South Africa enabled the opening of the Africa regional office where Tahra Sergeant has been the regional manager since April 2014. This has enabled IBIA Africa to host regional conferences. Both these regions now have their own IBIA Regional Boards and one of each of those board members is also on the main IBIA Board. At the convention in Houston last year, we had the first meeting of the Americas Regional Board moving us closer to having a full representation of the regions with discussions ongoing for the Middle East Regional Board, set to be announced in connection with the 2023 IBIA Annual Convention in Dubai.


I also need to record the efforts of the female members of the Board over the years. Typically, we have always had at least one and sometimes two female board members. I should also make mention of Eugenia Benavides serving on the board for 7 years from 2011 and returning to the board in 2019. Our Secretariat, throughout the existence of the association, has had very strong female bias. I have already mentioned Kirsty Peart in the early years but we have had succession of competent and capable women working in the secretariat including Anne Chambers, Charlotte Egan, Channette Roughton, Sofia Konstantopoulou, Tara Morjaria, Tahra Sergeant, Siti Noraini Zaini and of course our intrepid director Unni Einemo. Most members do not know how much they contribute to the running of the association, but without them we would be lost.


Another recent development has been to hold regional conferences, aimed at local issues and providing a platform for additional training with events including Tenerife in 2018, Jamaica, Cyprus and Panama in 2019 and both Istanbul and Malta in 2022. All were well supported with strong local attendance.


Just for the record, here is a list of IBIA’s Chairmen:


1Doug Barrow, May 1993 – May 1996
2Antonio Cosulich, May 1996 – October 1998
3Ivar Tonnesen, October 1998 – February 2001
4Chris Leigh-Jones, February 2001 – February 2003
5Nick Ladis, February 2003 – February 2005
6Don Gregory, February 2005 – February 2007
7Fritz Fredriksen, February 2007 – February 2009
8Mike Ball, April 2010 – April 2011
9Bob Lintott, April 2011 – April 2012
10Nigel Draffin, April 2012 – April 2013
11Simon Neo Tiau Gee, April 2013 – April 2014
12Jens Maul Jorgesen, April 2014 – April 2016
13Robin Meech, April 2016 – April 2018
14Michael Green, April 2018 – April 2020
15Henrik Zederkof, April 2020 – 2022
16Tim Cosulich – April 2022

These gentlemen came from a variety of backgrounds, including seagoing navigators, seagoing engineers, ship owners and operators, bunker traders and bunker suppliers, analysis laboratories, management consultants and research engineers. This demonstrates the range of interests, talents and experience which has helped IBIA to represent the bunker industry since 1993.

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