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Singapore moves closer to mass flow meter bunkering

Singapore moves closer to mass flow meter bunkering
The impending compulsory use of mass flow meters (MFM) to carry out bunker deliveries in Singapore port has made positive progress, attested by the launch of a technical reference standard in mid-February this year, way ahead of the 1 January 2017 enforcement date.

The technical reference, referred as TR48:2015, covers a set of core requirements for metering system qualification, installation, testing procedures and documentation for bunker custody transfer. Some key references from the TR48 include the MFM sytem being able to operate within 0.5% overall measurement uncertainty, and to meet criterias such as system integrity, acceptance test requirements and delivery procedures.

Wong Suan, regional sales manager at ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, pointed out that by stamping out quantity disputes, millions of dollars in business cost savings can be achieved. Singapore, for instance, sells 45.16m tonnes of bunkers in 2015. Going by the global average quantity claim of 5% of total sales volume, that equates to 2.26m tonnes in disputed quantity, translating to around $690m in cost based on bunker price of $300 per tonne. “This shows the magnitude of discrepancy involved,” Wong emphasized.

M Segar, assistant chief executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), shared that even before the mandatory use of MFM next year, more than 500,000 tonnes of bunker fuel deliveries in Singapore are being conducted every month via bunker tankers equipped with a MPA-approved MFM.

Segar said Singapore is “well on track to meet the 1 January 2017” implementation date, and by end-2016 approximately 228 bunker tankers operating in Singapore will all be installed with MFM. To date, around 30% of the fleet is already equipped. “Everyone [bunker tanker owners] has a schedule to follow,” Segar said, adding that no one should expect any delays to the enforcement date.

Homegrown physical bunker supplier Sentek Marine & Trading said it has delivered 3.3m tonnes of bunkers via MFM-equipped bunker tankers in 2015, increasing from 1.8m tonnes in 2011. “We expect our MFM-delivered volumes to be even higher than 3.3m tonnes in 2016,” said Sherman Lee, assistant marketing manager at Sentek. In January, Sentek’s 6,000-dwt series bunker tankers made 13 deliveries and the fuel quantity variance was 0.13% on average, based on a total of 65,475.93 tonnes of fuel quantity on bill of lading records.

Singapore-based shipowner Pacific International Lines (PIL) also shared that between July to December 2015, the company made 444 bunker liftings in Singapore via MFM-equipped bunker tankers, and the fuel quantity variance was 0.28% on average. Anthony Nah from PIL’s fleet division said that the shipowner received 44.37% of its bunker fuel from MFM deliveries in 2013, increasing the percentage to 60.41% in 2014 and 81.01% in 2015, and 100% is expected in 2016.

“PIL believes that the benefits of using MFM for bunker deliveries include receiving accurate volumes, lesser or no disputes, eliminating time loss from disputes, and higher productivity onboard vessels,” Nah said.

Starting next year, ships bunkering in Singapore will have to observe the local regulation and take MFM-equipped bunker tanker fuel quantity figure as final, regardless of whether the ship itself has its own MFM or other fuel measuring devices. But if the shipowner still decides to contest the meter readings, a commercial settlement will ensue between the supplier and buyer, subject to MPA ascertaining there had been full compliance to the delivery procedures.

There is also the tricky issue of fuel transfer between shoreside terminals and the bunker tankers. Terminal operators, like shipowners, are not bounded by the MFM regulation and bunker suppliers have questioned whether they will accept the readings on the bunker tankers’ MFM, in the event of a major quantity difference.