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Rotterdam keen to improve its bunkering sector, is hot on the heels of Singapore’s MFM mandatory adoption

25 Nov 2022

All eyes are on the Port of Rotterdam Authority after news in late October broke of it planning to mandate the use of mass flow meters (MFMs) at Rotterdam port, planning to become the second global maritime facility to do so after Singapore. 

The use of MFM technology for bunkering has been a topic of interest in the maritime industry. The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA), with support from BIMCO, launched an extensive online survey in February 2022 to enquire on the wider adoption of bunker licensing schemes, MFM and transparency to improve market conditions.

Looking at the case of Singapore, marine industry stakeholders seemed to agree the introduction of a Bunker Licensing Program (74.5%) and mandatory use of MFMs (76%) have had a positive impact on the republic’s bunkering sector.

So it came with no surprise when IBIA released a statement a day later welcoming news of Rotterdam port mandating the use of MFMs for bunker deliveries.

When contacted, Rotterdam port Press Officer Tie Schellekens told Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times: “The Port of Rotterdam Authority intends to make the use of mass flow meters mandatory in Rotterdam on behalf of bunkering fuel for the maritime industry.”

“The Port of Rotterdam Authority has indeed conducted research into quantity issues in the Rotterdam bunker port.”

He said a MFM bunker system measures the exact amount of bunker oil that is supplied as fuel to seagoing vessels.

“In this way, the Port Authority wants to make the market more transparent, efficient and reliable,” Schellekens added while elaborating the Port Authority believes in the process that has been initiated for this purpose. 

“However, it still requires a lot of preparation, but is well aware that such a measure has a major impact on the bunker market. That is why preparation time is still needed before the harbour master actually makes the commitment. The Port Authority expects to be able to communicate more about the intention by the end of the year.”

According to the Port of Rotterdam Authority, there are 32 barge operators active in the Dutch marine refuelling market to date; out of 170 bunkering vessels, approximately 30 of them are equipped with a MFM bunkering system.

 ‘First mover’ advantage for Rotterdam licensed bunker supplier VT Group

The plan bodes well for licensed bunker suppliers at Rotterdam port including VT Group (Verenigde Tankrederij BV) who comes across as huge advocates for the system. 

Interestingly, Claudia Beumer, Global Account Manager for VT Group, said the company was the “first worldwide, who installed and certified a MFM system on barge Vlaardingen back in 2010 in Rotterdam”.

“Ever since then, we have been advocating the use of MFM for bunkering. Not only with our customers, but definitely also with the Port of Rotterdam. The use of MFM is not only offering a transparent and direct method of measuring the amount of fuel bunkered, but with the correct use of the Certified System, it also offers a huge efficiency improvement of the bunkering process,” she told Manifold Times.

Beumer believes MFMs will create a level playing field for Rotterdam market players. 

“It is however essential to take this initiative wider and include the full ARA region. Using MFM will have a price increase of bunker services as a result, so to ensure this level playing field, it needs to be embedded in Antwerp and Amsterdam as well.”

With carbon taxes and emission trading schemes (ETS) approaching, Beumer said it becomes even more important for fuel users to have reliable data and the use of MFMs contribute to that.

As for challenges, she foresaw possible issues with lead times when all 170 barges in the Dutch market decide to install MFMs at the same time. 

“And we should not forget that there is a cost involved. Independent barge operators offer maritime transport, not fuel. So the cost of the MFM and the installation needs to be carried by the barge operator, the fuel user and the fuel supplier together. And for the barge operators that have no experience with the MFM, there needs to be a thorough training program of the crew so they understand the different way of working,” she explains. 

“With all the challenges the maritime industry already has, like decarbonisation and the use of alternative fuels, we should eliminate all uncertainties in measurements and deliveries. MFM’s offer a reliable, time efficient measurement method that works for all new fuels and traditional marine fuels.  

“And last but not least, MFM’s have been around for more than 12 years in the maritime industry already. Let’s learn from the early adapters and the experiences gained in Singapore over time and ensure we make our industry not only future proof but also relevant.”

After Singapore first made MFMs mandatory in 2017, Manifold Times conducted a survey with various industry and company sources estimating the annual bunker sales volume for the republic’s top 10 Singapore bunker suppliers in 2018. 

Based on the survey, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) accredited marine fuel suppliers believed the introduction of MFM technology for bunkering has given them, and Singapore port, a competitive edge over other ports in the region.

With that, MFM providers have hailed the initiative by Port of Rotterdam saying it was a step in the right direction.

Metcore International: ‘Very positive’ step in the right direction

Singapore-based mass flow metering system measurement solutions provider Metcore International Pte Ltd (Metcore), amongst key players in the introduction of MFM bunkering practices at the Singapore market, was supportive of the development.

“Singapore’s maritime sector has invested tremendous effort to create the reputation of transparency and trust in the use of MFMs for bunkering that it now enjoys,” states Darrick Pang, Managing Director of Metcore.

“Hence, the decision by Port of Rotterdam Authority to mandate the use of MFMs for bunkering to build a level playing field for its local marine fuels sector is a very positive direction.”

However, Mr Pang stressed MFMs are not simply a “plug ‘n’ play” solution where measurement equipment can simply be forgotten after installation onto bunkering vessels.

“From our experience in the Singapore market as well as other international ports, the main factors about MFMs’ successful use for marine refuelling comprises of the entire ecosystem’s integrity as well as continuous monitoring and competency of key personnel in order to ensure the consistency of performance,” he elaborates. 

“In addition to the correct application of pipeline sealing, bunkering standards and the competency of crew, having an effective and comprehensive framework for continuous monitoring is also of paramount importance.”

Singapore’s success story on MFMs for bunkering was only made possible by an industry-wide initiative backed by regulatory enforcement – an area where the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore shines – to ensure measurement consistency, believes Mr Pang.

However, the onus of securing a successful implementation of the MFM bunkering mandate should not be placed solely upon port authorities because transparency and trust-building needs to be a collaborative effort supported by all key bunkering stakeholders, he states.

Endress+Hauser ‘committed’ to support MFM installation transitional period

MFMs, a matured technology which have been used with much positive feedback for bunkering operations at Singapore port, can only enhance similar marine refuelling activities at Rotterdam port, confirms Mohamed Abdenbi, Business Process Consultant – Bunkering & Fuel Supply Chain, and Costas Arvanitis, Global Solutions Manager at MFM manufacturer Endress+Hauser.

In addition to providing a higher level of trust for buyers and a faster turnaround times, MFM technology enables bunkering operations to be fully transparent with detailed logs and safe data storage of activities, says Mohamed and Costas.

The development increases transparency which will increase the attractiveness of Rotterdam for buyers of marine fuels. Furthermore, the time to bunker can be reduced, enabling bunker service providers to utilise their fleet to a greater degree of efficiency. 

“To sum up, the benefit of MFM bunkering systems will increase the attractiveness of the Rotterdam bunkering sector due to increased transparency, trust, and bunkering time, leading to increased demand, less disputes, and greater fleet utilisation,” they state.

However, the duo was quick to point out widespread implementation of the technology at Rotterdam port to bring about certain challenges.

“Bunker service providers will need to make sure they are compliant within the timeframe allotted by the Port of Rotterdam. The challenge herein lies with issues related to global supply chains, and the limited amount of wharfs that can refit the barges with MFM bunkering systems,” they said.

“We expect there will be a peak in required activities from all parties, with potential bottlenecks in wharfs as many barges will want to refit within the same timeframe. Bunkering service providers should take care to plan accordingly, and get in touch with wharfs and MFM bunker system providers in a timely manner. 

“Another challenge is redesigning the bunker barges to accommodate the MFM bunkering system, as those can take up a lot of space on board. The Endress+Hauser Promass F coriolis mass flow meter is compact compared to alternatives, which reduces the complexity of redesigning the bunker barges piping system.”

Moving forward, on behalf of Endress+Hauser, both Mohamed and Costas affirm the company’s commitment in assisting Rotterdam barge operators to implement MFM bunkering systems within the transition period “with the highest level of quality”.

“This includes, managing supply chains to ensure timely delivery, MFM system commissioning and testing and support in the certification of the system,” they said.

“The experience E+H has gained over the past decade with the installation of Bunker metering system onboard bunker barges and vessels will be beneficial not only to the bunker operators in Rotterdam that needs to install MFMs but also to the port authority. 

“We are committed to work closely with all the bunkering industry stake holders to make this new development and its implementation a success.”

Related: IBIA welcomes news of Rotterdam’s plans to mandate MFMs
Related: Exclusive: Estimated annual sales volume for Singapore top bunker suppliers

 

Photo credit: Port of Rotterdam Authority/Danny Cornelissen; VT Group; Metcore International; Manifold Times
Published: 25 November, 2022

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