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Bunkering 101 - Setting Industry Standards

Singapore punches above its weight in the international scene on various fronts, including bunkering, which is the process of supplying fuels to ships for their use.

Did you know that while Singapore does not produce its own oil, it is in fact the largest bunkering port in the world? In terms of the volume of bunker fuel sold, the nation has ranked number one in the world since 1988!

In this three-part series, we shine a spotlight on some of the recent developments within the bunkering scene, bringing you direct insights from industry professionals.

2017 ushered in a new age for the bunkering sector in Singapore – with effect from 1st January that year, the nation enforced the use of mass flow meter (MFM) for marine fuel oil (MFO) delivery, making it the first port in the world to mandate its use.

Two years on, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore announced that it would extend the mandatory use of MFM to all bunker tankers delivering distillates1 in the Port of Singapore from 1st July 2019.

So, what is the MFM and why has Singapore placed its bets on this?

For the second part of our Bunkering 101 series, the MSC Office speaks to Mr Darrick Pang, Managing Director of Metcore International2, to find out more about the business of setting better standards for the industry.

1) First up, can you explain more about what the Mass Flow Meter (MFM) is?

Well, as the name suggests, the MFM is a device that measures the mass per unit time (hours/minutes/seconds) flowing through it. Fitted on bunker vessels, this new device and method of measurement allows for more efficient and accurate calculations of fuel deliveries – optimising turnaround time, enhancing transparency and deterring malpractice in bunkering procedures. This provides better assurance to both the bunker buyers and suppliers on the quantity of bunker delivered, and safeguards Singapore's reputation as the world's top bunkering port.

The Mass Flow Meter (MFM) is a device that measures the mass per unit time (hours / minutes / seconds) flowing through it

2) How did you get into the bunkering industry?

My career started over 30 years ago at ExxonMobil where I built up my expertise in technical and operational areas of its refinery and oil terminals, which included overseeing the quality of products, marine safety of the tanker fleet and the entire physical supply chain. I was involved in implementing mass flow meters at ExxonMobil and was introduced to the field of Metrology in flow measurement of marine fuels. This eventually led to the founding of Metcore International in 2014.

3) Tell us about your work at Metcore

As Managing Director, a large part of my work involves Business Development. Besides engaging and reaching out to ship owner clients locally, I lead the team in exploring new markets overseas. We have recently penetrated Europe – Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Greece and have next set our sights on China. This consists of going on trade missions, pitching to ship owners as well as the various port authorities. Overseas, more groundwork has to be laid, thus educating the bunker supply chain is one of the things we must do. Sometimes, we host them here too, as they visit to have real-life viewings, receive training and observe assessments and tests.

However, my work does not stop at Metcore. I strongly believe that it is important to raise the standards of the sector as a whole for us to level up, and so contribute whatever experience and expertise that I have by actively giving back.

I currently serve as the Chairman of the National Mirror Committee for International Organisation of Legal Metrology (OIML) R117 (dynamic measuring systems for liquids other than water) and ISO 21562 (bunker fuel MFM on receiving vessels).

I was also a member of the technical committee and working group that developed Singapore’s Technical Reference for Bunker Mass Flow Metering (TR483 :2015), and led the task group on System Integrity.

4) What sets Metcore apart from its competitors?

Professionalism and High Quality Assurance. Our integrity and unrivalled expertise in metrology, flow measurement and fuels technology ensure that the MFMs installed on our clients’ bunker tankers are tested, verified and obtain TR48 accreditation in the quickest time, eliminating possible operational, technical and system breaches.

We also work closely with both MFM meter suppliers – Emerson and Endress + Hauser, to keep up to date on the developments of metering systems, as well as the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), on MFM and other projects for the bunkering sector.

5) With bunkering standards being raised globally, how does Metcore contribute to top of class bunkering standards?

In 2017, Singapore became the first port in the world to mandate the use of the MFM system for bunkering, and set a new benchmark for bunkering practices worldwide. This system not only helps to reduce malpractices, but also improves efficiency and productivity.

The previous tank sounding (SS600:2014) method involved manual measurement of the tank depth to calculate the volume of fuel transferred from bunker tankers to receiving vessels. These measurements are subject to human error (some of which are intentional at times), which results in an over reporting of the delivered fuel amount, and that means additional cost for the ship owner. The MFM system eliminates the human error and also allows ships to enjoy up to 25 per cent time savings per bunker delivery.

With our deep expertise in the use of MFM (TR48:2015), we are able to do our part to educate, train, install and offer advisory services to ship owners, ports and governments, helping the bunker sector to level up as a whole through better practices and equipment.

6) The Metcore Inspection Services (MIS) division is a relatively new one, set up in 2016. How has this business division added value to the business?

The core surveying services of the MIS division are Measurement and Quality. These two segments are further made up of bunker surveying, MFM data analytics, system verification and dispute investigation among others. We bring forth solutions to reduce client’s everyday operational costs and tailor our services according to their needs. The Inspection Services division has allowed us to widen our services and customer base.

Today, we are present at Port of Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong meeting the industry’s needs by providing non-biased and accurate reports on Measurement and Quality.

7) How will the nature of jobs in the bunkering sector change with the advent of new technologies?

Throughout its history, the bunkering sector has had a unique fondness for paper. Each time fuel is delivered, both the buyer and seller have to process an enormous amount of paper work. But with advances in technology, we foresee a shift to more paperless transactions in the near future. Menial work will, as a result, be reduced.

Some of the projects underway include electronic verification of tamper-evident seals using handheld mobile scanners, electronic bunker delivery notes, and web-based quick analysis of MFM data, amongst others, to increase work efficiencies.

Advancements in technology in measuring fuel deliveries – such as the mandated use of MFM systems for marine fuel oil in January 2017 and distillates from July 2019 – are the way forward to curb malpractices, improve transparency and increase efficiency in bunker operations.

For each bunker delivery, the MFM system logs thousands of data points of key parameters. The ability to make sense of the data and derive accurate insights will be a new skill set required for the bunkering sector!

A surveyor from Metcore conducting his duties onboard, using the MFM system

8) How do you envision the bunkering sector to develop in 5 years’ time?

Digitalisation and Mass Flow Metering technology will play a bigger role, not just in Singapore, but also at key bunkering ports around the world. As such, we can expect to see the establishment of an international ISO standard for bunkering using MFM, and a growing number of ports adopting the use of MFM systems for bunker tankers. LNG and other alternative fuels will also be increasingly used and test bedded.

Singapore takes the lead amongst 200 bunkering ports globally, securing an estimated 12 to 15 per cent market share of bunker sales. Being the market leader, we are often sought after for our expertise and thought leadership, so it’s important for us to maintain a constant pipeline of talent trained in this specialised field.

There are many careers within the bunkering sector which more people should know about. These include metrology engineers in flow measurements, researchers in alternative fuels, data analysts and systems developers, bunker tanker crew and cargo officers, amongst many other roles in the oil refineries and throughout the bunker supply chain.

I sincerely hope our youth will consider one of these careers, all of which play a part in safeguarding Singapore’s status as the premier bunkering hub globally.

For those who are keen to take up new challenges, explore new horizons and be part of a vibrant, dynamic and growing sector, explore the Maritime Singapore Connect website and find out more.

1. Distillates refer to fuel with Viscosity range of between 1 and 120 cSt @ 40 degree Celsius. These include Marine Gas Oil, Marine Diesel Oil, Low Sulphur Marine Gas Oil (0.1%) and Ultra Low Sulphur Oil that meets the 0.5% sulphur requirements.

2. Metcore International Pte Ltd is a marine solutions provider based in Singapore that provides technical expertise in fuel measurement solutions for the bunkering sector. It specialises in the integration, testing and operation of Mass Flow Meter (MFM) system on board bunker tankers. Since its inception in 2014, the company has tested over 50 per cent of Singapore’s MFMs installed on bunker tankers carrying heavy fuel oil and extended its services overseas to the greater Asia region, Europe and the Middle East.

3. Bunker Mass Flow Metering TR48 was developed for the benefit of the bunker industry in Singapore comprising ship owners, operators, charterers, bunker suppliers, bunker craft operators and bunker surveyors and is intended to enhance the efficiency of bunkering operators and promote best practices in the measurement of bunker fuel delivered. The purpose of this TR is to document principles, requirements and procedures in the application of mass flow metering to bunker in Singapore.

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