Meech: New IBIA Chairman Talks Better Bunker Practices, Ethics, Enforcement of Bunker Regs, Membership Growth

Thursday April 7, 2016

Improved global bunkering practices, the fair enforcement of bunker regulations, and growing its membership are some of the key areas of focus for the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) this coming year, IBIA's new Chairman Robin Meech has told Ship & Bunker.

He officially replaced outgoing chairman Jens Maul Jorgensen effective April 1, 2016.

Meech said the role and value of IBIA is constantly changing, reflecting the industry it represents; "It provides a balanced view taking into account the feedback from its membership which represents all facets of bunkering, not only buyers and sellers but also the multitude of support sectors.

"This adds value to what the Association has to offer to its membership whether it is lobbying on bunker issues at IMO, providing input into improving bunkering guidelines for adoption by ports or making concrete input to ISO committees."

Better Bunkering

Meech says IBIA is improving global bunkering procedures, and have been approached to develop bunkering guidelines.

"In many ports it is much needed," he said, "from flange standardization, good practice for surveyors, to the whole process and procedures of a quality system."

The chairman notes that the biggest ports - particularly Singapore, Rotterdam, and Gibraltar - have already developed extensive standards, from which others can learn, and it is an important role of the IBIA Port Charter to encourage this process.

And while Meech gave the example that the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) guidelines may not be entirely applicable to some ports in, say, Africa, he says standards such as licensing and adoption of often existing, good practice standards can be a huge benefit to those ports.

"IBIA is also developing training for ships' crew taking receipt of bunkers - from paperwork and samples, to the whole process of getting fuel on board, issues on blending, to dealing with poor fuels and changing fuels," said Meech.

"We are also looking at training on fuel changeovers. With the reported loss of power problems switching fuels for [Emissions Control Area (ECA)] compliance, it is clear people on board the ship need to be able to handle that situation."

Compliance and Enforcement

Also for bunker regulation compliance, Meech says IBIA wants to help in the debate over increased enforcement, with a particular eye on the 0.5 percent global sulfur cap, which could come into force in 2020, rather than be pushed back to 2025 following the IMO fuel availability review later this year.

"Today we see enforcement of the ECA rules, mainly in Northern Europe and in the Americas, but a global cap is very different," he says.

"Currently, enforcement on the high seas is through the vessel's flag state and their propensity to enforcement on emissions is as yet undeclared. With some 70 percent of bunkers consumed by open registry ships there may well be significant noncompliance."

Meech explained that IBIAs enforcement proposal is, through amendments to Annex VI, to require vessels to always have enough compliant fuel on board to take them to their next destination port.

"If you have enough compliant fuel that's less than 0.5 percent then you can leave port and proceed to your next port compliantly," said Meech.

"Or maybe the vessel has product to blend on board, or maybe they have a scrubber, meaning they can be compliant with higher sulfur bunkers. That would be OK too.

"But if you can't prove that you can leave port and get to your next port while remaining in compliance, you are breaking the local law of the port you are currently in - be that UK, France, Saudi Arabia or any signatory to Annex VI. Then you would look at options such as debunkering the non-compliant fuel, fines, or even vessel arrest."

Asked if the proposal had received much support to date, Meech replied: "Who could be against it? Who would say 'I like the current rules' because it means I don't have to comply?"

In IBIA's recent membership survey, 85 to 90 percent wanted to improve the industry's ethics, however Meech also acknowledged that, unfortunately, the bunker and shipping industry are known to have unscrupulous participants. 

"People under deliver, that's where they get a margin," he said.

"I'm still struggling on how IBIA will have the greatest influence on this but IBIA can make an impact by encouraging the adoption of best practice, licensing systems, and monitoring mechanisms such as mass flow meters."

Membership

When it came to its membership, Meech stressed that IBIA is not a bunker supplier's association, but represents the whole supply chain both buyers and sellers, and as such getting more ship owner members is part of the membership growth drive.

"By doing things like improving guidelines and procedures in ports for safety and commercial reasons, that will be attractive to shipowners," said Meech, adding that he would like to see more ports added to the already growing list.

Geographically, the Americas and Asia were areas where growth will be initially focused.

"As the world moves on, Asia and China in particular will be an even more important country in terms of bunkering, especially when the global sulfur cap comes into force. And IBIA is already considering moving some of its secretariat operations to the new office planned in Singapore. Perhaps, in the not too distant future IBIA may well move it's headquarters to Asia

Working Groups & Training

Meech said that through its working groups IBIA has a wealth of knowledge that members can tap into.

"An issue is identified, is considered by a working group that will include competent members who provide an unbiased view which is reviewed by those members and non-members to form a consensus which forms the basis for IBIA's efforts to move the industry forward," he says.

"We have a a lot of good guys in IBIA, which is needed because a lot of these issues are very technical."

IBIA has also forged the way in training over the past few years, with Meech saying Singapore is a notable example where the association is the leading provider for approved bunkering courses.

"Other countries are recognising this as evidenced by the Mauritian government encouraging IBIA to establish specific training and support to the bunker industry," he said.

"This has resulted in an IBIA sub branch being established for the indian ocean under the African region."

A new initiative has started in the marine academies by providing an overview of bunkering; "It is surprising how little of STCW courses is dedicate to bunkering.,." he said.

The new IBIA board from April 1, 2016 comprises of :

  • Robin Meech (Chair) - Marine & Energy Consulting Ltd
  • Michael Green (Vice Chair) - Lintec/Intertec , Shipcare
  • Eugenia Benavides - Organizacion Terpel  SA
  • Patrick Holloway - Webber Wentzel,
  • Peter Hall - CEO IBIA
  • Unni Einemo - Platts
  • Lim Teck Cheng - Hong Lam
  • John Stirling - World Fuel Services
  • Mustafa Muhtaroglu - Energy Petrol
  • Nigel Draffin - Consultant and Author
  • Bob Sanguinetti - Gibraltar Port Authority
  • Henrik Zederkof - A/S Dan Bunkering