Expert's Opinion

Barge operator’s dilemma: Fuel product diversification coming 2020

Barge operator’s dilemma: Fuel product diversification coming 2020

Liquefied natural gas (LNG); low sulphur fuel oil; marine gas oil (MGO); hybrid fuels; and regular fuel oil with scrubbers – these are most of the major solutions suggested to shipowners for meeting the upcoming 0.50% global sulphur cap starting 2020.

It’s almost to the close of 2017 and it seems the shipping community has not reached a clear decision on the main type of fuel to consume by 2020. 

So, what does this mean for the bunker barge/tanker operating segment, especially for one operating at the world’s largest bunkering hub? 

Technically speaking, the role of bunker barge/tanker operators is to carry and deliver fuel. But this does not mean we do not care about what is happening within the industry itself!

Each of the fuels earlier mentioned in the first paragraph are unique as they need to be treated and stored differently. For example, LNG which is believed to be the ‘fuel of the future’ needs a special containment and delivery system which not many (more accurately: no) bunkering tankers at Singapore to date are able to offer; the rest of the fuels, understandably, cannot be mixed prior to delivery due to the risk of contamination – and there is only one bunker delivery manifold per vessel.

This, in turn, represents a logistical dilemma for barge operators. Different types of mass flow meter systems (at least in Singapore) are needed for fuel oil and MGO; this could mean a bunker tanker installing two types of MFM systems depending on the cargo carried. The limited carrying capacity of a bunker tanker/barge also means much discussion is needed to decide which kinds of fuel to load. Imagine what will happen if a company puts all resources into delivering and marketing a certain fuel, only to find out the rest of shipping industry is leaning towards another!

Whether it is LNG, MGO, LSFO, or a combination of fuel oil and scrubbers, the bunker supply segment of the shipping industry will need a clear indication on the chosen bunker fuel. And this is why barge operators such as Sinanju and others will need to remain vigilant in market decisions and other developments in international shipping sector for the coming years.


About the author:

Desmond Gregory Chong Teck Jin is General Manager of the Sinanju Group of Companies, a Singapore-based small-medium enterprise which owns, operates and manages a fleet of thirteen modern double-hulled tankers supplying bunker to the ships calling at Singapore and Fujairah.  His role involves business development, commercial management and the daily running of the Group comprising over 200 on-shore staff and sea-based crew.

He was served on the Bunkering sub-committee of the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) for the past eight years, a current member of its Marine Fuels committee and is a Founding member of the SSA Young Executives Group, having held the Vice-Chairman’s post during its formative years. 

He has also served as a Workgroup member on Mass Flow Metering under the auspices of the Technical Committee for Bunkering – managed by the Standards Development Organisation, Singapore Chemical Industry Council and is currently Chairman of its National Mirror Committee for ISO22192 - Bunkering of marine fuel using the Coriolis mass flow meter (MFM) system. 

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Oil Price

Top Ports Price $/mt Change High Low Spread
Singapore 493.38 0.00 514.00 470.00 44.00
Fujairah 506.83 0.00 510.50 500.00 10.50
Rotterdam 450.30 0.00 462.00 438.00 24.00
Hong Kong 494.50 0.00 512.00 474.00 38.00
Antwerp 462.00 0.00 464.00 460.00 4.00
Top Ports Price $/mt Change High Low Spread
Singapore 508.33 0.00 518.00 497.00 21.00
Fujairah 544.83 0.00 582.00 520.50 61.50
Rotterdam 481.50 0.00 490.00 475.00 15.00
Hong Kong 504.50 0.00 528.00 484.00 44.00
Antwerp 488.50 0.00 492.00 485.00 7.00
Top Ports Price $/mt Change High Low Spread
Singapore 708.83 0.00 719.00 696.00 23.00
Fujairah 795.33 0.00 800.00 790.00 10.00
Rotterdam 682.88 0.00 714.00 660.00 54.00
Hong Kong 731.67 0.00 743.00 722.00 21.00
Antwerp 680.00 0.00 680.00 680.00 0.00

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