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Singapore plans to tighten controls in maritime fuel industry

[SINGAPORE]  Singapore plans to apply stricter control measures to the marine fuels sector, a move that industry sources say could boost transparency in a notoriously opaque industry.

Singapore was the first port to mandate the use of mass flow meters (MFMs) in 2017 for marine, or bunker, fuel oil sales from barges to the end-user vessels. The proposed measures would extend the use of MFMs to fuel transfers from oil terminals to the bunker barges.

Singapore is the world’s largest marine refueling, or bunkering, hub and the city-state has implemented some of the industry’s strictest rules and standards. It reported record sales of marine fuels in 2017 of 50.6 million tonnes.

“The Technical Committee for Bunkering has submitted a proposal to the national standards body, Enterprise Singapore, for a new standard on quantity, measurement and sampling requirements for transfer of bunker fuel from oil terminals to bunker tankers using Mass Flow Metering,” Enterprise Singapore said in a statement on Thursday.

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“This proposed standard complements existing standards to ensure transparent and fair trade in the bunkering ecosystem,” a spokeswoman said.

From July 1, 2019, Singapore will extend the mandatory use of MFMs to bunker barges delivering distillate fuels ahead of an expected pick-up in the demand for distillate fuels to meet global caps on sulphur content in bunker fuels which will come into effect from 2020.

The measures are all aimed at bringing more transparency to a notoriously opaque sector which has had its fair share of scandals, including illegal short-selling of fuel as well as large-scale fuel theft.

More recently, a wave of contaminated fuel has clogged and damaged engines on hundreds of oil tankers and container vessels in the past months, with no one yet held accountable. That has pushed shippers to demand stricter controls around the world.

The proposed measures could enhance transparency and accountability in a meaningful way, two trade sources said on Thursday.

For instance, mass flow meters at oil terminals would ensure the right quantities of fuels are transferred between buyers and sellers while taking oil samples at terminals could help prevent the spreading of contaminated fuels once they are detected and enhance accountability if quality disputes arise, the sources said.

The sources declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

“The proposal will undergo a one-month public notification to seek views of stakeholders on the scope of the standard at the end of this year,” the Enterprise Singapore spokeswoman said.