Mandatory Mass Flow Meter Will Not Eliminate Bunker Disputes
Published 06 September 2016 in Shipping Watch by Tenna Schoer
KPI Bridge Oil: Mandatory mass flow meter will not eliminate bunker disputes.
SUPPLIERS: Singapore from the turn of the year will become the first nation in the world to implement mandatory use of mass flow meters. The move will reduce complaints, but it would be utopian to think that the regulation will put an end to bunker disputes, says one of the biggest players in the market, KPI Bridge Oil.
As the world’s leading bunker port, Singapore has taken the initiative in the fight against bunker fraud. This will happen on January 1st 2017 when the country makes it mandatory to use mass flow meters. But even though the statistical uncertainty has been registered as low as 0.5 percent during the test phase, the equipment does not represent a guarantee against disagreements between suppliers and buyers:
“You’ll never be able to eliminate disputes! Just the fact that deliveries take place between two ships, often in the middle of the ocean – and is a product which has been heated just to liquefy it will always bring uncertainties which can trigger complaints,” explains managing director Mark Emmett of KPI Bridge Oil in Singapore.
The bunker sector has over the years developed a questionable reputation for quantity disputes when delivering bunker fuel to ships and this results in many complaints which Singapore would very much like to see disappear after the turn of the year.
Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) has thus spent five years developing a measuring system, described as follows by MPA director Parry Oei in an interview with ShippingWatch in February, when the system was presented:
“This will be fine-tuned as we get more and more experience. There is no such thing as a perfect system, but I am certain that this at least covers all of the elements which the various stakeholders have pointed out to us.”
The dipstick will still play a part
As managing director of Singapore for one of the world’s biggest bunker trading companies, Mark Emmett does not see the reality quite as simply as that:
“We may be supplying bunker with the use of mass flow meters, but most vessels will not themselves be equipped with mass flow meters, so they will continue to use their dipstick to measure directly in the tank – and if the chief engineer thinks he has received too little bunker, he will still – mass flow meter or not – claim that he has been underserved,” says Emmett, adding:
“I’m not saying who’s right and who’s wrong. But seeing as there likely aren’t many shipowners in this struggling shipping market who’ll be willing to spend USD 150,000 to install a mass flow meter on their vessels, I think these disputes will continue.”
Still, Emmett does not believe that this legislation is a waste of time, the mass flow meter will have a positive effect:
“Specifically here in Singapore it will eliminate many of the problems. In time it will also spread to other parts of the world, and ships will also install them. In isolation however, even with the introduction of the mass flow meter the problem will continue to exist.”
Better Bunker Sector
The bunker sector is not just frequently criticized in terms of its quantities, but for its quality as well. Sometimes the criticism is more fair than others, as Emmett notes:
“I think the bunker sector is getting quite a lot of bad publicity concerning poor quality. It’s not because we don’t get complaints, of course we do. But the industry has improved in recent years,” says Emmett, presenting a concrete example:
“As responsible suppliers, traders and buyers, we try to handle the quality as well as we can. It’s basically a matter of proactivity and transparency and in this regard, we check our suppliers much more than we have in the past. It’s certainly not unusual for us to ask questions, request certificates for where the oil comes from, and to do technical tests and analysis before transferring bunker to the vessels.”
“If you ask whether the sector can improve its image, yes, there’s still room for improvement. But with the legislation underway, and the monitoring taking place in every single port and in every single country, I think we’ve come a long way.”