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Singapore: Investigations uncover USD 3.6 million worth of bunker short deliveries by Vermont UM Bunkering

Senior Cargo Officer gained SGD 48,800 worth of commission from “buyback” bunker transactions and illegally obtained SGD 410,712.257 by cheating Vermont, a Singapore court heard on Thursday (21 July).

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Investigations by local authorities have uncovered staff of former Singapore bunker supplier Vermont UM Bunkering Pte Ltd (Vermont) short delivering USD 3.6 million (exact: USD 3,645, 976.34) worth of marine fuel to 14 clients* over 52 occasions between 4 January 2014 and 2 March 2016.

The development involved Poh Fu Teck (Director), Koh Seng Lee (Director), Lee Kok Leong (Bunker Manager), Lee Peck Yong (Cargo Officer), Loh Cheok San (Senior Cargo Officer) and two absconded staff namely Yang San Hua (Director) and Xing Tao (Financial Controller).

Loh Cheok San (Mr Loh) was at the State Courts of Singapore on Thursday (21 July) when he pleaded guilty to two counts of cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code read with Section 109 of the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed).

He gained SGD 48,800 worth of commission from “buyback” bunker transactions and illegally obtained SGD 410,712.257 by cheating Vermont, according to court documents obtained by Manifold Times.

“Buyback” Bunker Transactions

Mr Loh receive about SGD 10 per metric tonne (pmt) of marine fuel oil as commission for participating in “buyback” transactions which would be split 50-50 between him and any cargo office involved in the transaction.

He is estimated to have earned a commission of at least SGD 43,600 from the “buyback” transactions he participated in – calculated from multiplying SGD 5 pmt by the 8,720 metric tonnes of under-delivered marine fuel oil.

Extra Commission Cheated from Vermont

Further, Mr Loh said he was instructed by Lee Kok Leong to over-declare “buyback” figures to Vermont in order to gain extra money for sharing with his peers. This resulted in him earning an estimated extra commission of SGD 5,200 from Vermont.

Cheating Vermont

Investigations also uncovered Vermont being cheated of at least USD 979,750 in total by Mr Loh, Lee Kok Leong, and Gerald Lee.

The difference between what was declared to Vermont and the amount actually paid to the Chief Engineer of the vessel would be split equally between the three individuals after paying the cargo assistant, usually SGD 5 pmt.

It is estimated Loh’s share of the difference was about USD 314,960.95 (SGD 410,712.257).

Mr Loh, who has not made any restitution of his illegal gains to date, has been scheduled to face sentencing in October 2022.

*Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times has chosen to withhold the names of these 14 clients

Related: Directors of Vermont granted leave to pursue legal suits against Goldsland and Sin Hua
Related: Vermont UM Bunkering makes winding up application at Singapore High Court
Related: Vermont UM Bunkering Directors plan to defend claims from Hong Kong firms
Related: Goldsland Holdings moves in to secure US $22 million from Vermont UM Bunkering
Related: Bank seeks $38 million from arrested Singapore bunker tankers
Related: Singapore: Four bunker tankers arrested
Related: Singapore-based Vermont UM Bunkering directors, staff charged for fraud

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 25 July, 2022

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Vessel Arrest

Vietnam: Fishing vessel TH-92237-TS arrested over 80,000 litres of illegal diesel oil

Ship first spotted being surround by several other wooden hull fishing boats at a location about 100 nautical miles southeast of Con Da on 7 June.

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Kiem tra huong tien

The Vietnam Coast Guard on Saturday (8 June) said it arrested fishing vessel TH-92237-TS over the carriage of about 80,000 litres of illegal diesel oil.

It first spotted the vessel being surround by several other wooden hull fishing boats at a location about 100 nautical miles southeast of Con Da on 7 June.

The authority proceeded to inspect the vessel and found it to be transporting about 80,000 litres of diesel oil with no invoices or documents proving its legal origin.

Following, the coast guard conducted a record of administrative violations, established initial records, and sealed the violating goods.

It escorted the fishing vessel back to the port of Squadron 301 (in Vung Tau City) and handed it over to the Command of Coast Guard Region 3 for further investigation and handling in accordance with the provisions of law.

 

Photo credit: Vietnam Coast Guard
Published: 13 June 2024

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Alternative Fuels

IUMI: How can liability and compensation regimes adapt to alternative bunker fuels and cargoes?

Existing international liability and compensation regimes do not fully cater to the changes that the use of alternative marine fuels will bring.

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Dangerous cargo

By Tim Howse, Member of the IUMI Legal & Liability Committee and Vice President, Head of Industry Liaison, Gard (UK) Limited

The world economy is transitioning, with industries across the board seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace more sustainable practices. As part of this, there is a huge effort within our industry to look to decarbonise, using alternative fuels such as biofuel, LNG, LPG, ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen.

Until now there has been much focus on carbon emissions and operational risks associated with the use of alternative fuels. This includes increased explosivity, flammability, and corrosivity. An ammonia leak causing an explosion in port could result in personal injuries, not to mention property damage, air, and sea pollution. In addition, alternative fuels may not be compatible with existing onboard systems, increasing the risk of breakdowns and fuel loss resulting in pollution. Apart from these safety concerns, which particularly concern crew, air pollution and other environmental impacts need to be addressed.

However, the green transition also presents us with a separate regulatory challenge, which has received less attention so far. So, whilst carbon emissions and safety concerns are rightly on top of the agenda now, the industry also needs to prioritise the potential barriers in the legal and regulatory frameworks which will come sharply into focus if there is an accident.

If anything, historic maritime disasters like the Torrey Canyon spill in 1967, have taught us that we should look at liability and compensation regimes early and with a degree of realism to ensure society is not caught off-guard. With our combined experience, this is perhaps where the insurance industry can really contribute to the transition.

Currently, existing international liability and compensation regimes do not fully cater to the changes that the use of alternative fuels will bring. For example, an ammonia fuel spill would not fall under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunkers Convention), potentially resulting in a non-uniform approach to jurisdiction and liability. Similarly, an ammonia cargo incident would not fall under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC). Uncertainties may also exist in the carriage of CO2 as part of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, which may be treated as a pollutant, with corresponding penalties or fines.

A multitude of questions will arise depending on what happens, where it happens, and the values involved, many of which may end up as barriers for would be claimants. How will such claims be regulated, will there be scope for limitation of liability, and would there be a right of direct action against the insurers? In the absence of a uniform international liability, compensation and limitation framework, shipowners, managers, charterers, individual crew, and the insurers may be at the mercy of local actions. Increased concerns about seafarer criminalisation (even where international conventions exist, ‘wrongful’ criminalisation does still occur) may emerge, creating another disincentive to go to sea.

When being carried as a cargo, the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS), which is not yet in force, may resolve some of these issues for alternative fuels and CO2. However, until HNS comes into force, there will be no international uniformity to liability and compensation for the carriage of alternative fuels and CO2 as cargoes. This creates uncertainties for potential victims and their insurers, who may face increased risks and costs, due to the potential inability of existing regulations to provide protections.

The situation is even less clear in the case of bunkers. The rules for using alternative fuels as bunkers might require a separate protocol to HNS, a protocol to the Bunkers Convention, or a whole new convention specifically for alternative fuels.  Relevant considerations for the appropriate legislative vehicle include states’ preparedness to reopen the Bunkers Convention, the ability to conclude a protocol to HNS before it comes into force, and whether a multi-tier fund structure is needed for alternative fuels as bunkers (perhaps unnecessary because bunkers are usually carried in smaller quantities compared to cargoes).

Until then, what we are left with are the existing international protective funds, designed to respond at the highest levels to pollution claims resulting from an oil spill, without any similar mechanism in place to respond to a spill of alternative fuels, which are themselves so central to a green transition. Somewhat perversely, victims of accidents involving an oil spill may therefore enjoy better protections than victims of an alternative fuels spill.

In summary, while the use of alternative fuels will no doubt help to reduce the industry's carbon footprint, there are safety and practical hurdles to overcome. Stakeholders must also come together to find solutions to complex - and urgent, in relative terms - legal and regulatory challenges.

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Source:  International Union of Marine Insurance
Published: 13 June 2024

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Legal

Malaysia: MMEA detains Singapore tugboat, barge for illegal anchoring in Johor

Inspection found that both vessels from Singapore were suspected of committing offences for failing to report their arrival and anchoring without permission from Malaysian Marine Department Director.

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Malaysia: MMEA detains Singapore tugboat, barge for illegal anchoring in Johor

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Tuesday (11 June) detained a Singapore-registered tugboat with a barge at approximately 3.5 nautical miles west of Pulau Harimau in Johor.

Mersing Zone MMEA director Maritime Commander Suhaizan Saadin said the tugboat and barge were apprehended at 11.00am by a MMEA patrol team during Ops Jaksa and Ops Tiris. 

“Inspection found that both vessels from Singapore were suspected of committing offences for failing to report their arrival and anchoring without permission from the Director of the Malaysian Marine Department,” he said. 

Investigation also revealed all seven crew members from both vessels were Indonesians, aged between 25 and 44 including the captain.

The detained vessels and crew were taken to Mersing Maritime Jetty to be handed over to MMEA investigators for investigation under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance 1952.

“MMEA will not compromise on any activities that are against the law and will always be committed in continuing operations and patrols along Malaysian Maritime Zone (ZMM) to curb illegal activities in the country's waters,” said Suhaizan.

 

Photo credit: Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
Published: 12 June 2024

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