Singapore bunkering sector faces manpower ‘talent gap’ for qualified bunker surveyors
Players within the Singapore bunkering sector are currently facing a ‘talent gap’ over the recruitment of sufficient qualified bunker surveyor staff due to a variety of reasons, learns Manifold Times.
Fully qualified Singapore bunker surveyors, which generally take between six to eight months to train, are required to obtain a license from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) via an accredited and licenced bunker surveying company.
Interested personnel are required to attend and pass a bunker surveying course from ST Engineering subsidiary STET Maritime Pte Ltd – the only entity approved by MPA for such training – before being able to apply for the appropriate licence.
It is believed the ST Engineering subsidiary conducts its bunker surveying course for newcomers about twice a year.*
“Bunker surveyor candidates have to go through a structured process to ensure only quality surveyors are able to operate at Singapore port which is good for quality control,” an industry veteran familiar with the bunker surveyor sector told Manifold Times.
“However, we need to streamline the process for the training of new bunker surveyors at Singapore and consider a review of training requirements and the institute for carrying this out.
“As we all know there is a memorandum from September 2017 to September 2018, that no new bunker surveyor licences will be issued for companies and individuals. From September 2018 to March 2019 there was only one course held by STET, whereas in 2019 there was only two courses held by STET in March and October 2019.
“The given reason for the low frequency in courses held is due to insufficient attendees for the courses; this also means even when a date is given for a course to start, it doesn’t confirm training will proceed.
“This scenario has caused planning issues for companies trying to groom new surveyors as firms have no choice but to keep them on the payroll until the next STET lesson which could be months away.
“Hopefully MPA can look into streamlining these external costs and requirements to make these lessons more frequently available throughout the year so surveying companies will be able to invest more in recruitment operations to boost our bunkering industry.
“In the end due to this lag, bunker surveying companies will just be poaching from the market."
Another active player in the bunker survey sector confirmed the lack of STET Maritime organised bunker surveying courses.
“They need a minimum amount of people to conduct the course, I called them up a few times and they couldn’t give me a fixed date for it,” he said while continuing “and that’s why I had to take surveyors from other surveying companies to remain in the market.”
The real cause of the lack of surveyors within the Singapore bunker market, however, has more to do regarding payment of bunker surveyor services rather than training of new personnel, believes a management level source from the bunker surveying sector.
“Most of the smaller bunker surveying companies are paying lesser at around SGD $3,750 to 4,250 for 15 ships which makes around $250-283 per vessel; these smaller firms also do not offer a 13th month bonus,” he explains.
“A surveyor will usually stay on board for around 15 hours. Now with the introduction of VLSFO a surveyor may have up to three bunker grades (i.e. HFO, MGO, VLSFO) to manage so the duration of jobs may last till around 24 hours or more.
“Hence, the majority of surveyors feel the risk of climbing up on board a ship is not worth it with the lower prices - leading to the lack of surveyors for certain bunker jobs.
“However, the situation is quite the opposite for bigger bunker survey firms which pay more for jobs such as approximately SGD 5,000 for around 12 to 15 ships.
“It is the bunker surveyors who suffer when their respective firms engage in a price war.”
The Association of Bunker Industry (Singapore), also known as ABIS, believes it is time for the authorities to revamp the bunker surveyor qualification process at the republic.
“I had highlighted to MPA that they need a review on the requirements for new surveyors. Now is the perfect time to do so as the Singapore marine fuels industry has progressed from manual tank gauging to utilising mass flowmeter (MFM) technology for bunkering,” said ABIS President Daniel Phua.
“A lot of these policies can be considered old and obsolete as they were developed in the early 2000’s.
“We need to set up a review committee to look into updating earlier policies to keep up with the market’s needs, and more importantly – to pave the way for the next generation of mariners in joining our vibrant bunkering sector.”
*A check by Manifold Times on the ST Engineering training calendar [here] showed one Bunker Surveying Course taking place during 14 to 15 October 2019 between the six-month period from July to December 2019.
Status of the training date for the Bunker Survey Course (Refresher) TR 48:2015 Bunker Mass Flow Metering in the similar calendar was “to be advised” between the similar six-month period in 2019.
The MPA Mandatory Course Schedule [here] states the minimum number of personnel required to start the Bunker Surveying Course is seven.
Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 2 December, 2019
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