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Singapore port scores world first with bunkering mandate

[SINGAPORE] Singapore became the first port in the world yesterday to mandate the use of a new mass flow metering (MFM) system for bunkering, which besides eliminating any scope for malpractices, will also raise efficiency and productivity in the industry.

It involves the use of an automated mass flow meter that reduces "human intervention" in the delivery of marine fuel oil (MFO) from a bunker tanker to a receiving ship.

The government will help offset a portion of the cost of the adoption, estimated by some in the industry to be around $200,000, with an $80,000-grant to each existing bunker tanker delivering marine fuel oil in the port.

"As the first port in the world to mandate the use of mass flow meters for bunkering, we will set a new benchmark for bunkering practices worldwide," said Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew yesterday.

The new system will not only enhance transparency in the bunkering process, but also improve operational efficiency and increase the productivity of the entire industry, Mr Lui said in his opening address at the Singapore Bunkering Symposium, an event held in conjunction with Maritime Week.

Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) chief executive, Andrew Tan, added: "To safeguard Singapore's reputation as a top bunkering port in the world, we are taking the lead in being the first to mandate the use of mass flow meters."

Bunkering refers to the supply of bunker fuels to ships, similar to what a petrol station does for cars.

At one time, the bunkering industry here was hit by malpractices that threatened to tarnish Singapore's standing as the world's top bunker port. The MPA stepped up its vigilance over the industry and some bunker operators, their staff and quality and quantity surveyors were prosecuted and convicted. Some bunker operators had their licences suspended.

According to an MPA technical officer, the current "sounding" method used across the industry involves the manual measuring of the depth of the tank to calculate its volume. Using basic mathematics, the mass of the tank is then calculated from this volume. This is where the problem comes in.

The "sounding" system allows room for human error in measurement, which in many cases has proven to be intentional. A mere error of a few centimetres in measuring the tank will result in different volume and mass figures of the tank and thus, the amount of fuel delivered and the cost to the shipowner.

The new MFM method removes the human intervention involved in the process as the mass flow meter will now automatedly measure the mass of the bunker, without calculating volume. This automated process will also allow the bunkering process to be more efficient and productive as less manpower is required.

Using the MFM system for bunker delivery allows ships to enjoy up to three hours or 25 per cent time savings per bunker delivery. With greater efficiency in bunkering operations, the bunker craft operators can optimise their turnaround times and bunker more vessels.

Although the MFM process is not new as it has been used selectively in several ports, Singapore is the first to make it mandatory.

From Jan 1, 2017, all bunker suppliers have to use the MFM system for bunker delivery of fuel oil in the Port of Singapore.

Existing bunker tankers operating in port must be fitted with an MPA-approved MFM system by Dec 31, 2016.

New bunker tankers applying for harbour craft (bunker tanker) licence after Dec 31, 2014 will be required to be fitted with the system, the MPA said in a statement yesterday.