BunkerMetric: New Tool Gives Analytical Insights into Physical Bunker Markets

Thursday February 8, 2018

Aside from a few notable exceptions, obtaining even basic metrics for physical bunker markets such as overall sales volumes and market share can be a difficult task. In the absence of official data, many turn to sources such as supplier estimates and bunker quality surveys.

Aiming to bring a new level of insight into the workings of physical bunker markets is BunkerMetric. Using AIS data, the new system tracks the whereabouts of bunkering barges operating within a port and automatically identifies activities such as the loading or delivery of bunkers. The resulting insights are presented through a web-based analysis tool.

"BunkerMetric provides unique analytical insights into select bunker markets," says co-founder Christian Plum, who recently talked to Ship & Bunker about the new system. It currently tracks the Genoa, Hamburg, Piraeus, and Saint Petersburg markets.

"We collect detailed AIS data for the bunkering barges operating in a given port, as well as the client vessels. Using proprietary algorithms and additional information supplied by traders, we generate a range of commercial and operational insights," he explained.

Automating the spatial analysis driving the system has been far from trivial, but the theory behind it is comparatively straightforward. For example, when a bunkering barge is alongside another vessel, and having verified about a dozen metrics relating to their position and speed, the system can infer that a bunker delivery is taking place. By constantly monitoring the vessels' movements, the system can then determine how long a delivery took to complete and, by using the known pumping rate of the barge and other factors, estimate the volume of bunkers delivered.

In a similar fashion, the system can identify whether bunkering barges are idling, at a loading terminal obtaining product, or repositioning, and so on.

"We can use this information to build up a wide range of commercial and operational insights," said fellow Co-founder Fernando Alvarez.

"In addition to a live overview of bunkering activities, we can answer questions such as, what are the utilization KPIs - volumes, turns, etc - of my competitors' barges? Who are my competitors' key clients in Piraeus, and what volumes are at stake? Which operators are not sending me RfQ's regarding their St Petersburg bunkering calls? Who am I losing RfQ's to?

"We can also determine overall supply volumes for a market over a given period of time, and how that volume breaks down for each player. On the buyer side we can show who is lifting what, where, and from whom."

The system naturally has its limitations; for example, there is currently no way to determine what products are being delivered by multi product barges (although BunkerMetric says development of new methods to overcome these limitations is underway). Also, because of some of the assumptions underlying the system, it won't be suitable for every use case.

Still, there is no question BunkerMetric can provide valuable insight into the otherwise opaque workings of a bunker market, with more ports and new features already planned for the future.

"The bunkering segment will experience important changes as a result of new regulations, digitization, and analytics. BunkerMetric aims to be at the forefront of these developments by partnering with ambitious organizations that want to lead this transformation," Plum concluded.

Plum is a former Maersk Line Senior Network Analyst who was also a Project Manager at Maersk Oil Trading focused on Bunker Fuel Optimization.

Alvarez is a former Senior Researcher at Det Norske Veritas and  Optimization Software developer at ILOG.

Rounding out the team is BunkerMetric Co-founder Nicholai Hsu, with broad expertise in web interface development. The three are based in Copenhagen, Oslo, and Taipei respectively.

BunkerMetric is currently offering a free 30 day trial of its system at: https://app.bunkermetric.com