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Use of mass flow metering (MFM) systems for all marine fuel oil deliveries will be mandatory in Singapore port from 1 January 2017.

11 September 2014 / Web only

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is introducing requirements for direct measurement of the mass of oil delivered during bunkering operations. This is understood to be the first such mandatory measure in any port worldwide. In their Port Marine Circular No.08-14, MPA announced that the “Singapore Standard Code of Practice for Bunkering” (SS 600) is in the process of being revised and that all bunker tankers operating in the port will be required to install an MPA approved mass flow metering (MFM) system. Enforcement dates for the new system to be fitted are as follows:

  • 31 December 2014 - all new bunker tankers applying for a Harbour Craft (Bunker Tanker) licence
  • 31 December 2016 - all existing bunker tankers

According to the MPA, the updated version of SS 600 will be launched at the 2014 Singapore International Bunkering Conference (SIBCON) in mid-October.

One of the problems in terms of trading marine fuel oil is that manual dipping and tank soundings onboard the ship are volumetric measurements while invoicing is based on the mass transferred. Manual measurements are time consuming and also not transparent for the counterparty. As the accuracy of traditional volumetric measurements is highly dependent upon the weather, sea and ship conditions, the trim of the bunker tank, fuel temperature and also relies on manual translation of volume measurements into mass, human errors are likely to occur followed by quantity disputes. Another difficulty reported in the Singapore region is “cappuccino bunkers” - a well known phenomenon whereby the bunker supply barge pumps air into bunkers so that a higher quantity of bunkers can be measured onboard the ship than actually supplied.

With a bunker sales volume of 42.7m metric tonnes in 2013, Singapore is the world’s leading bunkering port (source: “MPA Annual Report 2013”) and it is therefore very important to the MPA to ensure that quality bunker services are provided. The introduction of mandatory use of MFM systems is expected to enhance transparency in the bunkering process, improve operational efficiency, increase the productivity of the entire industry, and last but not least, reduce illegal bunkering activities.

Impact on ships’ onboard bunkering procedures
To assist the industry with the implementation of the new requirements, the MPA has issued the documents: “Frequently Asked Questions on Mass Flow Metering (MFM) for Bunkering” and “Generic MFM Procedure”. And although responsibility to install approved MFM systems lies with the bunker barge owners, it will also be important for crews on ships undertaking bunkering in Singapore port to familiarise themselves with the new system requirements.

Members and clients are therefore recommended to carefully review the MPA’s “Generic MFM Procedure” and to ensure that their onboard bunkering procedures are adjusted as necessary. It is important to note in relation to use of the new MFM system that: 

  • Engagement of a Bunker Surveyor is still important as the role of the surveyor as an independent party to witness and ensure compliance during bunkering processes remains unchanged.
  • It is not uncommon that bunker contracts prescribe the means of determining the quantity of bunkers supplied. It is advisable that besides MFM being the binding arrangement, the Chief Engineer (or his deputy as per the SMS) and the Bunker Surveyor conduct bunker surveys onboard the bunker supply barge and own ship before and after delivery. Such surveys should include looking for signs of aeration or other malpractices in bunkers. In the event there is agreement between the buyer and seller to use sounding to measure the quantity of bunkers, the MPA will not object to such an arrangement before 1 January 2017. However, the MPA emphasises that the MFM system (where available) should still be kept operational and advises that the information recorded in the MFM will be used in an investigation.
  • The Chief Engineer (and Bunker Surveyor if engaged) is strongly advised not only to witness and record the meter readings after completion of bunkering but also to witness that the total mass reading (the resettable totalizer) has been set to zero before commencement of bunkering.
  • The integrity of the measurement process relies on ensuring that the whole delivery system, and not just the meter, is completely secure and that any possibility for bypassing the flow onboard the bunker barge downstream of the meter is sealed off. Before commencement and after completion of bunkering, the Chief Engineer and Bunker Surveyor (if engaged) should carefully check and confirm that all sealing points are intact and that the seal numbers match the seal numbers recorded in the latest “Seal Verification Report” available onboard the bunker supply barge.

 Available downloads from MPA

  • Port Marine Circular No.08-14 dated 29 July 2014: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/circulars_and_notices/pdfs/port_marine_circulars/pc14-08.pdf
  • MPA Frequently Asked Questions on Mass Flow Metering (MFM) for Bunkering: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/pdf/faq_mfm.pdf
  • Generic MFM Procedure: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/sites/pdf/generic_mfm_delivery_procedure.pdf

Singapore Standard Code of Practice for Bunkering – SS 600: available to purchase