Port of Rotterdam Prepares to Make Mass Flow Meters Compulsory for Bunker Deliveries

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Wednesday October 26, 2022

The Port of Rotterdam, the world's second-largest marine fuels hub, is preparing to follow Singapore in making mass flow meters (MFMs) compulsory for bunker deliveries.

The port authority is making plans for the announcement, making it the second port worldwide to do so after Singapore, according to sources familiar with the situation.

One source suggested the mandate could come into force as soon as January 1, 2024.

The port authority does not currently plan to provide financial support to barge operators for the cost of the equipment.

Cost of Quantity Disputes

The move will come as a significant strikemove against bunker quantity disputes in Northwest Europe. The Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp hub has widely been seen as one of the world's bigger problem areas for bunker quantity disputes since Singapore reduced these disputes with its MFM mandate from 2017.

Adrian Tolson, head of consultancy BLUE Insight, published research earlier this year suggesting that about 3%, or about $150 million/year, of the bunkers recorded as delivered at Rotterdam were never actually pumped on the ship.

Licences Will Need to Follow

The next question for the authorities at Rotterdam will be around licensing for bunker suppliers. A key part of what has made Singapore's MFM mandate a success has been the use of its licensing system to make sure that the systems are all calibrated in the same way, and used correctly.

Rotterdam already has a licensing system in place for its barge operators, and is understood to be considering introducing a similar system for bunker suppliers within the next few years.

How MFMs Work

The meters measure the Coriolis effect -- the same effect that makes a flexible hosepipe move as water flows through it -- as a means of measuring the volume of oil flowing through a pipe.

The previously universal method of measuring bunker volumes, taking tank soundings using a measuring tape, could not compensate for the so-called 'cappuccino effect', where air mixed with the fuel -- deliberately or not -- would give the impression of more fuel having been delivered than was actually the case.

Following Singapore's Lead

Singapore is the only location so far to have made the use of MFMs compulsory for bunker deliveries. However, authorities in other countries such as Turkey have made their use compulsory at terminals for barge loadings.

Singapore made the use of MFMs mandatory for fuel oil deliveries from the start of 2017, applied the same rule to distillates from July 2019 and earlier this month announced the same requirement for deliveries of biofuel bunker blends. Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority provided significant financial support to barge operators to compensate them for the cost of MFM installations.

The possibility of other port authorities following suit from Singapore has been a regular source of heated debate in the bunker industry over the past five years. Industry body IBIA has been a prominent supporter of MFMs, as has bunker supplier TFG Marine, but other, less vocal figures in the bunker industry may see an MFM mandate in Rotterdam as a threat to their business model.

Some suppliers have been voluntarily installing the meters for several years, and have marketed themselves as providing a better quality of service as a result. But a universal mandate would allow for a level playing-field at Rotterdam, with everyone using the same measurement equipment.

One main concern prior to Singapore's change in 2017 was that the new MFM mandate would cause officially reported bunker sales volumes to drop as the data started to show the new, more accurate volumes. But this proved not to be the case; in 2017 Singapore's sales volumes climbed by 4.2% from the previous year to 50.6 million mt, the highest level on record.

MFMs and bunker licensing will be among the main topics under discussion at the IBIA Annual Convention 2022 in November. The convention will be held at the JW Marriott Houston hotel on November 15-17. The event will consist of a bunker training course on November 15, followed by a series of keynote speeches, presentations and panel sessions over the following two days.

Ship & Bunker readers can access a 10% discount on registration costs by clicking here and entering the code SB10 when prompted.

If you would be interested in participating as a speaker or panellist, contact IBIA's global head of marketing and events, Sofia Konstantopoulou, at sofia.konstantopoulou@ibia.net.

If you would be interested in sponsoring the event, contact Ship & Bunker's head of sales and partnerships, Paul Davis, at sales@shipandbunker.com.