The Singapore bunkering sector underwent changes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) increased its Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) risk assessment to DORSCON Orange.
The development over a month ago has led to several firms along the marine fuels supply chain actively responding by implementing Business Continuity Plans (BCPs).
These entities included bunker supplier Global Marine Transportation, marine fuels testing laboratory and surveying firm Veritas Petroleum Services, mass flowmeter manufacturer Endress+Hauser, and trading house Synergy Asia Bunkering.
Singapore bunker publication Manifold Times spoke to these entities, including the International Bunker Industry Association and others, to find out how the industry has been operating to date.
Global Marine Transportation
Aaron Tan, General Manager at Global Marine Transportation (GMT), notes the bunker supplier was among the first of such firms to obtain BCP certification by Lloyds Register since 2011 – resulting in the company being well prepared for COVID-19.
“Since DORSCON Orange, we have been carrying out additional precautionary steps and checks as part of the measures implemented by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and various Ship Managers,” he said.
“The additional steps have resulted in some operations experiencing slightly longer durations but this was necessary as part of the standard operations procedure.
“To overcome this, we have established cooperation with other bunker suppliers who can assist to supply bunkers on our behalf should there be a disruption to the operations.”
GMT has divided its office staff into two teams where a team is to work in office while the other team works from home until further notice as part of its BCP. In addition, all visitors to the office are to declare their health status as part of the building management’s precautionary measures.
While all GMT staff are advised to defer from non-essential travelling, others who have travelled overseas have been arranged to undergo self-quarantine onshore for at least 14 days for health monitoring before they can report to work in office or join its bunker tankers, shares Tan.
“We have to adjust the duty shift roster for those directly and indirectly affected by the quarantine and we appreciate all staff and crew’s understanding during this period of time,” he notes.
“As part of our BCP, we have been carrying out yearly exercises for such situation, hence all staff have understood the importance of the exercise and are able to adapt to the above arrangement in the shortest time possible.”
Veritas Petroleum Services
Veritas Petroleum Services is well prepared and following recommended guidelines issued by the MOH and MPA, says Rahul Choudhuri, Managing Director, AMEA, who adds operations have continued with minimal disruption despite COVID-19.
“We have a large group of surveyors and work must go on. We are prepared and know we have an important service to provide; hence, we will not compromise on that,” he told Manifold Times.
“We are as strict as need to be for both house staff working indoors and surveyors working in the field. We are already conducting daily temperature checks and practising increased hygiene very much in line with MOH guidelines.
“The main message is for my staff to look ahead. We take precautions, but we don’t dwell on fear. There is a need to be cautious and very careful but there is also a need to not panic.
“I think Singapore is setting a perfect example of this. Singapore has shown to be the gold standard in controlling this scare, according to the World Health Organization, but it doesn’t mean we should be complacent.”
Khay Guan (KG) Lim, CEO and Managing Director at Endress+Hauser (S.E.A.) Pte Ltd, noted the company’s sales and support services for the bunkering industry has remained available and un-disrupted.
“Even before DORSCON Orange, the Singapore executive team had already updated the BCP, implemented travel history declarations with all her employees, restricted all non-essential travels to mainland China, and imposed 14 days Leave of Absence (LOA) for those with contact or travel history to China,” he shared.
“Temperature screening and travel history registration was implemented for all visitors to our office.”
The company further held an extraordinary town hall meeting on the Monday morning following DORSCON Orange to communicate to all employees the activation of its Business Continuity Plan, notes KG.
“A BCP manager and a backup assistant was appointed to coordinate all BCP actions,” he said.
“A WhatsApp channel dedicated to COVID-19 BCP related topics and company announcements was also launched. We segregated our company into split teams, with each team alternating their workplace between office and home on a weekly basis.
“With respect to our customers’ desire to minimise physical visits without compromising the availability of our services, we guided our customers to our online e-commerce platform, endress.com, for all technical support, commercial enquiries and purchase transactions.”
The Singapore office of Endress+Hauser also had help from sister firms around the world in setting up its BCP.
“We had some difficulty replenishing our masks with local suppliers but fortunately we were able to source them from our sister companies in other countries,” added KG.
“We also had to quickly set up a satellite office within a week to handle new project staging and acceptance testing while maintaining segregation from our main office.
“All these challenges we were able to overcome because of the support, diligence and collaboration of our E+H associates.”
Synergy Asia Bunkering*
Steven Low, Director at Synergy Asia Bunkering (SAB), informs the company implemented BCP since the first week of February and has introduced several changes to its trading operations since DOSCON Orange.
“We have introduced rotating shifts for our traders while support staff had their standard working hours [9.30am to 6pm] changed to 11am to 4pm to avoid the packed crowd during peak travelling times,”
The company’s specialised Vietnam bunker supply business was also not left out.
“Staff at the Vietnam office have been asked to work from home while barge crew are now all required to wear masks during fuel deliveries. For customers in Vietnam, we additionally send them masks as gifts.
“Overall, client meetings are still going on and we try to meet either at open air locations or via video calls. On and off, we also leave short messages and e-cards reminding them on good hygiene.
“Right now, it’s safety first for all and we expect to continue BCP until when sky is clear. Right now, we believe it is still very gloomy and getting bad to worse so we plan to continue this for another good six months.”
International Bunker Industry Association
“Singapore, as a whole country from Government to our fellow Singaporeans, has been proactive and systematically implemented processes to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus which has been classed as a ‘Pandemic’ by the World Health Organisation) on 12 March,” said Alex Tang, Regional Manager Asia at IBIA.
He notes the MPA has already issued port circulars focusing on precautionary measures to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in Singapore, while Enterprise Singapore (ESG) has also produced a guide on Business Continuity Plan on COVID- 19.
“Singapore bunkering stakeholders have largely taken guidance of the earlier MPA and ESG recommendations and updated their own company policy on fighting against the COVID-19 cases over the past two months,” he notes.
“We can mitigate the risk and continue to uphold the supply of Singapore bunkering process with smooth, integrity, confidence and high quality for all Singapore Bunker stakeholders.”
“We have been closely monitoring the outbreak of the coronavirus, including advice from the World Health Organization, and have also implemented precautions for the IBIA training course which we conduct worldwide.
“As a corporate and socially responsible international association, the safety and wellbeing of our delegates, trainers, partners, colleagues and vendors is our priority and commitment.”
Tang shared with Manifold Times the internal company process of a bunker surveying company and also corporate member of IBIA which their employees follow on the field:
The head of a bunker trading firm says the company started its BCP operations in the middle of February by splitting its team into two, where one works from office and the other from home.
“We experienced limitations working from home as staff working away from the office did not have access to documents; this resulted in basically everyone doubling up their responsibilities in the office to help out so efficiency-wise there were some issues,” he said.
“Client-wise, we try not to find other means of communication and prefer not to meet people in general unless necessary. We encourage social discipline, and recommend staff not to visit or meet individuals who have been to infected areas.
“We expect to continue BCP operations for the long term.”
*Synergy Asia Bunkering has started a non-profit operation to offer free face masks and hand sanitising sprays to people in need. The firm is also open to working with corporations to jointly present these items to a charity. Interested parties are able to contact Jeremy Long (+65) 92206508 / firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 18 March, 2020
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