Industry Insight: Bunker Surveyors in a World of Mass Flow Meters

by Douglas Raitt – Regional Consultancy Manager Lloyd’s Register Asia
Tuesday April 5, 2016

From the 1 January 2017 all Marine fuel oil (MFO) bunkering activities in the Port of Singapore must be through means of mass flow meters. Quite a few industry people are speculating on the role of bunker surveyors in this brave new world whereby custody transfer quantities are essentially automated through mass flow meter readings and tank dipping will become a thing of the past.

Is it time for bunker surveyors to hang up their boots?

The fact that mass flow meter use will be mandatory in Singapore from next year onwards does not necessarily mean bunker surveyors become a relic of the past. As widely reported mass flow metering is not a "plug and play" system and MPA has rigorously together with the industry developed a process that ensures mass flow metering system integrity in Singapore is robust and delivers quantity measurement readings buyers and sellers of bunkers can rely on. Having said that there is a need to ensure the mass flow metering system is verified and maintained on a continuous basis to ensure ongoing integrity.

Surveyors who still are in doubt of their relevance in future would do well in reading TR 48 - Bunkering by mass flow meter technical reference - cover to cover as it refers to the words bunker surveyors over a 100 times!

Frontline checks by surveyors on a regular basis can assure buyers the metering system on barges they take fuel from are properly maintained and not tampered with. Some of the duties surveyors would carry out includes reviewing all relevant documentation pertaining the mass flow metering system, such as but not limited to mass flow meter calibration certificates, piping and sealing diagrams and stored mass flow meter zero verification records. Apart from this the surveyor will also check all seal numbers and conditions through a seals verification checklist to ensure the system has not been tampered with.

Recently Lloyd's Register was engaged on a mass flow meter verification job in Hong Kong and the duties carried out were: to check all mass flow meter documentation, carry out seal verification work and witness zero stored verification checks by the mass flow meter vendor and record and report these independently to the client. The learning we took from this is that although the bunker surveyor's role might be changed it is still needed albeit in a different guise.

Of course with mass flow metering one important duty will remain the same and that is for surveyors to take representative samples from the bunker loading/delivery.

It's time for the surveyor community at large to perhaps consider not to hang their boots up after all.