Digital revolution

The days of physical bunker delivery notes are numbered

On 1 January global shipping passed a milestone in the acceleration of digitalisation in  the sector that may have gone unnoticed by many. Under the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL), governments are now required to use a single digital platform, the Maritime Single Window, to share and exchange information with ships when they call at ports, effective 1 January 2024.

The intention is to streamline procedures to clear the arrival, stay and departure of ships and greatly enhance the efficiency of shipping worldwide. More than 4.6 million port calls were recorded globally in 2022.

IMO Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said: “Digitalisation is critical for greater efficiency in shipping. The Maritime Single Window delivers information between ships, ports and government agencies quickly, reliably and smoothly.”

Meanwhile, in development directly affecting the bunker sector, the IMO has formally confirmed the use of Bunker Delivery Notes (BDN) in electronic format as an acceptable alternative to the conventional hard copy, if they conform to the regulations of MARPOL Annex VI.

This follows the 80th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee last July, which agreed an additional unified interpretation to regulations 18.5 and 18.6 of MARPOL Annex VI concerning BDN. It is now included in the updated consolidation circular MEPC.1/Circ.795/Rev.8.

The minimum information to be contained in the BDN remains the same in hard copy or electronic format and is specified in Appendix V of MARPOL Annex VI. An electronic BDN should be protected against any edits/modifications/revisions and a verification method used to make authentication possible. As with a paper BDN, an electronic format must be retained onboard for a period of not less than three years from the date of delivery and made readily available for inspection as required.

IMO notes in a statement: “Certain ports are looking to implement electronic BDN as part of a wider move towards digitalisation, including documentation related to bunkering operations. Ship officers should be aware of these changes such as the method to digitally transfer an electronic BDN from the bunker barge to the receiving ship and the subsequent means to securely retain that electronic record onboard for not less than the required time period.”

In a sign of the way things are going, Singapore’s Maritime & Port Authority has approved several suppliers to trial the use of electronic bunker delivery notes (eBDN).

Vitol Bunkers says, with its logistics arm V-bunkers, it is collaborating with technology company ZeroNorth to enhance the efficiency of the bunkering process in Singapore through digitalisation. V-Bunkers delivered over 7 million tonnes of bunker fuels in 2023 for its customers, which was also a record year for Singapore. Its barges delivered around 190,000 tonnes of biofuels, which is nearly 36% of total biofuels volume delivered in Singapore last year.

Rishab Bahl, Managing Director at V-Bunkers, said: “We have chosen ZeroNorth as our partner to help digitalise our delivery process with their eBDN solution. Their deep domain knowledge, a secure and strong solution, and commitment to continuous investments towards digitalisation align well with our objectives for a global roll-out.”

Kenneth Juhls, Managing Director for ZeroNorth Bunker added: “Digitalising the bunker industry is a game-changer that accelerates the green transition. Our partnership with Vitol Bunkers marks significant strides towards innovative and sustainable industry practices, and we’re excited to see how Singapore’s leadership influences this globally.”

Back in November last year ZeroNorth said it had enabled its customer Golden Island Diesel Oil Trading Pte Ltd (Golden Island) to become the first marine fuel supplier in Singapore to go 100% digital in its use of Electronic Bunker Delivery Notes (eBDN).

Commenting on the news, Tomohiro Yamano, General Manager, Marine Fuel Department at Golden Island said: “A month after the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) launched its digital bunkering initiative as the first port in the world to implement eBDN, we are proud to be the first company to fully switch to eBDN in the Singapore bunkering market. To achieve this, we required a solution that would facilitate a seamless workflow to enhance the productivity and efficiency of our marine fuel delivery operations.

Kenneth Juhls, Managing Director for ZeroNorth Bunker at ZeroNorth, added: “Bunker procurement has been a traditionally cumbersome process, burdened by manual documentation. We’re delighted to be helping Golden Island eliminate these manual processes to streamline documentation, drive efficiencies and boost productivity across its operations as a global eBDN solution on the market.

In a separate development in the move towards shipping industry digitalisation, major container line Pacific International Lines (PIL) says it has completed full integration with the Singapore Trade Data Exchange (SGTraDex) platform, making it the first shipping line to do so. PIL says in a statement: “This achievement, realised through a collaborative effort with KPI OceanConnect, signifies a transformative step towards global digitisation in PIL’s maritime operations.”

According to PIL, the integration, initiated early last year and concluded in December, has enabled it to leverage SGTraDex to improve the way transactions are conducted with its stakeholders, including suppliers and financial institutions. This is another key step forward in improving efficiency and transparency in maritime operations.

As part of the integration, PIL successfully executed an overseas bunkering transaction with KPI OceanConnect, demonstrating the feasibility of using SGTraDex for transactions beyond Singapore. PIL says the transaction highlighted the data highway’s potential to streamline complex processes and facilitate smoother collaborations between shipping lines and their beneficiary chain of organisations.

Since the successful overseas bunkering transaction, PIL has completed more than 40 transactions through SGTraDex. The adaptability of SGTraDex is evident in its ability to handle a diverse range of transactions, showcasing its relevance across the maritime sector.

Prior to this integration, PIL had to export and email documents to suppliers, who then manually uploaded key information onto the e-invoicing portal.

Image Credit: IMO


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