Tricks of the Bunker Trade: What Happens When Your Bunker Surveyor is Asked to Bend the Rules?

by Kaivan H. Chinoy, Petro Inspect / The Bunker Detectives
Tuesday July 7, 2015

Throughout the Tricks of the Bunker Trade series so far we have shown you many malpractice techniques used by some on the unscrupulous players in the bunker industry. While there are many, many high quality and trustworthy bunker suppliers in the world, the danger of malpractice is still very real.

As such we can not stress enough how important it is to protect yourself against an expensive loss by always using a bunker surveyor when stemming bunkers. And with the increasing use of technology in use today such as mass flow meters (MFMs), using a surveyor is just as important, perhaps even more so. (You can read more on why here, here, and here.)

But what happens when an unscrupulous supplier asks your surveyor to bend the rules?

Does that even happen?

Unfortunately, the answer is "yes."

Since the launch of Bunker Detective (BD) in Singapore last year there have been three separate occasions where a supplier has barred us from attending their bunker tankers because of our reputation.

"Too strict and can't bend the rules," one supplier said on a recent stem.

Now this does not mean surveyors can not be trusted, in the same way that just because there are some suppliers who engage in malpractices, that all suppliers do. However it does suggest that there may be some suppliers that are trying to get surveyors to "look the other way" or even participate in malpractice.

So should you always make sure you use a surveyor who refuses to bend the rules, even a little bit?

Again, the answer is yes! Bending the rules leaves the vessel operator vulnerable to a loss.

SS 600

The Singapore Standard Code of Practice for Bunkering, SS 600, covers pre-delivery, actual delivery, and post-delivery, and the rules are in place for a reason: To ward off malpractices and unscrupulous suppliers and also sometimes the vessel with ill-intentions.

The code goes on to state:

The SS600 sets out the best practice for documentation and equipment requirements and, verification procedures during a bunkering operation and was developed for the benefit of the ship bunkering industry in Singapore comprising ship owners, operators, charterers, bunker suppliers, bunker tanker operators and surveyors.

Every bunkering operation carried out by bunker tankers to ships in the Port of Singapore must adhere to the SS600. By carrying out the bunker delivery process in accordance with the requirements contained in this SS 600, the likelihood of a bunkering dispute should be minimized.

In a notable incident from last year, our surveyors averted a major cappuccino incident in Singapore by making sure we did not bend the rules. After it was identified, our office got a letter from the supplier in question stating that no such incident took place and that we should retract our comments otherwise legal action will be taken against BD.

In response we presented them with hard evidence and said that we would be happy to see them in court. No further correspondence was received by the supplier after that.

On a separate occasion, both the bunker tanker and the vessel were involved in making an "under-the-table" deal, where the vessel had an excess of 50 metric tonnes (mt) to spare. BD averted a potential bribery and an obvious loss for the vessel operator.

So in the same way that you should always use a quality, trustworthy supplier, make sure you always use a quality, and trustworthy surveyor.

It is worth noting that last October the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) announced plans to licence bunker surveying companies from January 1, 2017.

If you suspect any malpractice taking place by either a supplier or a surveyor, we recommend that you contact the port authority immediately. In Singapore you can contact the bunkering assistance hotline, 1800-BUNKERS (1800-2865377).

BD Asia is committed towards maintaining the consistency in quality of service per International Standard ISO/IE 17020:2012 and Singapore Standard SS 600:2008 Code of Practice for Bunkering and shall not falter or fail in carrying our task due diligently.