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ASIA PACIFIC: WHAT HAVE MASS FLOW METERS DONE FOR THE SINGAPORE MARKET?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018

Written by Lesley Bankes-Hughes

The Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore’s (MPA) move to make mass flow meters (MFMs) mandatory for fuel oil deliveries has helped enhance transparency in the bunkering process and increased productivity, according to a select panel of experts speaking today at the International Bunker Industry Association’s (IBIA) Annual Convention in Singapore.


But they have also helped to thin out the market by reducing the number of licensed suppliers, with the recent loss of Panoil, Universal and Transocean illustrating the point, as the number of licensed suppliers has been reduced from 59 at the start of the year to 55 now. When asked what is the optimum number of suppliers that ideally would be delivering bunker fuel in Singapore, Md Elfian Harun, Assistant Director of the MPA’s Bunker Services Department, told the 150 delegates that while there is no official target number, it is generally agreed that 30-40 licensed suppliers would be about right.


Despite the recent losses – which few believe will be the last – Harun said that the MPA has no plans to issue any new licences at least until the first half of 2018, if then. First, the true impact of the MFMs has to be assessed, suggesting that further fallout has not been ruled out. However, he did concede that one new licence was recently approved but that was for a distillates-only supplier.

Harun also detailed the reasons why Panoil (technical deficiencies), Universal (non-compliance) and Transocean (falsification of records) lost their licences.


The panel agreed that MFMs allow greater transparency and enable the MPA to better enforce bunkering regulations, enabling the Authority, for example, to use the MFM delivery profile to look into the details of bunker deliveries, including abnormalities such as excessive stoppages or aeration, thereby deterring abuse of bunkering procedures.


The MPA claims that on average, bunker suppliers have reported time savings of between 2.5 - 3 hours per bunker delivery. With greater efficiency in bunkering operations, bunker craft operators can optimise the turnaround time of their bunker tankers to bunker more vessels. These time savings represent significant productivity gains for the Asian hub’s bunkering industry, where, in the first six months since implementation, the MPA has observed that Singapore’s fleet of bunker tankers delivered close to 10% more bunkers compared to the same period last year.


Another of the panellists, Choong Zhen Mao, Executive Director of Equatorial Marine Fuel Management Services, added that MFMs have had a very positive impact on the Singapore market, with the number of disputes dropping tremendously and the standard (TR 48) being very well received by shipowners. He argued that the mandatory use of MFMs has brought about more accountability and transparency to the market.


Representing MFM manufacturer Endress & Hauser, Mohamed Abdenbi told the Convention that MFMs do not eradicate disputes: ‘There are still disputes, but for much lower quantities.’ He added that since the start of 2017, the MPA has increased field checks for piping system integrity, compliance with TR 48 bunker delivery guidelines, stoppages during bunker delivery operations, documentation of bunker metering systems to make sure they are up to date, and ensuring that the barge‘s Bunker Delivery Note is the same as the MFM bunker ticket.


Going forward, Abdeni expects MFMs to be installed at terminals both to load bunker fuel onto the barges but also to discharge other fluids from the barges - or other vessels - where they need to be measured and stored. At the moment, the storage terminals in Singapore do not use MFMs to load barges, although terminals in some other countries, including Belgium, Sweden, South Korea and China, are now beginning to make more use of them.


Speaking from the floor, Mustafa Muhtaroglu, of Energy Petrol in Istanbul, added that since 1 January 2017, all terminal and all refineries in Turkey have been obliged to use MFMs for all loadings and discharges of all fuels. This includes the approximately 2.5 million tonnes of marine fuels within the 30 million tonnes or so of crude oil and refined products distributed around the country.


John Phillips, Head of Bunker Credit Management at GP Global said that MFMs have had an impact on credit in terms of companies losing licences, losing credit lines and going out of business. MFMs are allowing Singapore to police the market and weed out companies that are not trading profitably. Commenting on the recent withdrawal of accredited suppliers like Panoil, Transocean, Aegean and others, Phillips says: ‘These are positive steps and we need more of this.’


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