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Modernising and building a competitive advantage for Singapore as a bunkering hub

The following interview with Capt. Rahul Choudhuri, Chairman of Singapore Technical Committee for Bunkering, was part of coverage for the recently concluded Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) 2022, where Manifold Times was an official media partner.

Capt. Rahul discussed the following:

  • The committee’s strategy in preparing the local marine fuels industry for IMO 2030

  • How future bunker fuels could affect bunker surveyors

  • Singapore’s latest bunker fuel contamination incidents and

  • Development plans for a local biofuel bunker standard

MT: How is the Singapore Technical Committee for Bunkering and its related government entities preparing the local marine fuels industry for IMO 2030?

The Singapore Technical Committee falls under the purview of the Singapore Standards Council and is managed by the Singapore Development Organisation at SCIC. The intention is to develop national standards that continue to raise industry awareness, productivity and of course fulfil our regulator’s requirements.

The successful implementation of the SS:648 (Code of practice for bunker mass flow metering) is a good case in point where it has not only supported the local industry in modernising and building a competitive advantage for Singapore as a bunkering hub, but also help elevate global standards through the formation of an international standard ISO 22192 (Bunkering of marine fuel using mass flow meter) which took place last year.

In terms of getting ready for sustainable fuel development, the National Mirror Committee has been working hard in getting an interim biofuel standard ready. The work in developing a code of practice for ammonia and methanol bunkering has already started but this will take time.

MT: Future marine fuels could include material which are poisonous when exposed [ammonia] or super chilled [LNG]; how will this affect traditional bunker surveyor operations, such as drip sampling and tank gauging? Do you think bunker surveyors will still be needed in the future?

I think we are seeing early days still in terms of use of such new fuels. Their present use in mainstream shipping is fairly limited. The Global Centre of Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) has embarked on an extensive study on the safety criteria for ammonia bunkering which will include sampling & quality parameters. We should wait for these findings.

The bunker surveyor’s role needs to adapt to these changes and this can mean a greater level of knowledge building. However, the primary role of the surveyor to ‘trust but verify’ still remains a fundamental that will not be changed.

MT: Do you think marine fuel quality off-spec issues, this time involving alternative bunkers such as biofuels, methanol, LNG, ammonia and hydrogen, will still take place in the future? Why?

Alternative fuels such as biofuels have different quality characteristics that will need careful consideration and effective fuel management. For example, the FAME content of biofuels will define their energy value so knowing what this is accurately will be critical. Another criteria will be the evaluation of storage considerations for such biofuels as they may degrade, in which case knowing more about their stability characteristics will be important.

MT: Is the current ISO 8217 bunker fuel standard comprehensive enough for biofuels, which is seen by many shipowners as the easiest way to meet IMO 2030 targets? Any areas which you will like to see improvement?

No, I don’t think so. This may be because many other areas are under review in the ISO 8217 and so sufficient attention has not been given to the use and management of biofuels. It is for this reason that the National Mirror Committee (under the Technical Committee for Bunkering) has taken the task to develop a more comprehensive standard for biofuels in Singapore.

MT: What lessons have Singapore taken from the bunker contamination incidents earlier this year? What measures have the government introduced to make sure such an event never happens again at the world’s biggest bunkering port?

Apart from all the extensive work done by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), the industry will be aware a new Expert Group has been set up together with the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) to look more closely at this contamination incident and what further control measures can be set. We should not underestimate the seriousness of the intention here.

At the Standards level, the SS:524 (Specification for quality management for bunker supply chain) has been revised with the intention to put greater leadership commitment and risk management in the supply chain.

Photo credit: Singapore Technical Committee for Bunkering

First published: 28 September, 2022

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