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P&I club warns of bunker shortchange with MFM, urges continued use of soundings

The North of England P&I Association has warned of bunker quantity shortchange even through the use of mass flow meters (MFM) and encouraged receiving vessel to continue to take soundings onboard before and after bunker delivery.

The North of England P&I made reference to the mandatory use of MFM for bunker deliveries in the port of Singapore since the start of 2017, where a case emerged recently of piping irregularities on five bunker tankers operated by Panoil Petroleum.

“The introduction of MFM for bunker operation in Singapore is a welcome development. Unfortunately it appears that although the equipment has changed, the behaviour of some unscrupulous suppliers has not,” the P&I club stated.

Last week, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) temporarily suspended the operations of five MFM-equipped bunker tankers of Panoil Petroleum due to irregularities with the vessels’ piping fixtures.

“One implication of such piping fixture irregularities may be that they allow some quantity of bunkers to be siphoned back into the bunker tanker tanks whilst bunkering is in progress. This would mean that the amount registered on the MFM totalizer is greater than that delivered to the vessel, with the vessel receiving less than that recorded,” the P&I club explained.

“Piping fixtures form an integral part of the MFM system, as specified in the Technical Reference for Bunker Mass Flow Metering (TR48). One of the roles of the bunker surveyor is to check the integrity of this system,” it said.

Since 1 January 2017, the figure on the Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) presented to the receiving vessel is the figure obtained from the MFM. Bunker tankers do not accept figures derived after calculating quantity received onboard from soundings, nor do they participate in the sounding process, the P&I club added.

“Soundings should still be taken onboard before and after bunker delivery and, in case of a difference between the vessel figures and the BDN, letters of protest should be issued,” North of England P&I said.

“Bunker suppliers will not usually accept these letters of protest or will refuse to sign. But in the event of a dispute, they are evidence to show a difference between the MFM figure and the figure obtained by the sounding method. Charterers should be informed of any difference immediately.”

Meanwhile, Singapore’s bunker tanker owner and supplier Sinanju Tankers Holdings has offered a three-month complimentary service of providing an independent MPA-licensed bunker surveyor onboard to assist the crew of visiting ships in familiarising themselves with MFM bunkering procedures.

Sinanju noted that some ship operators and crew remained unfamiliar with the MFM bunkering equipment and procedures used in Singapore, a move away from the traditional tank dipping and sounding measurement method.

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