Bunker procurement and trading firm Shipergy is planning a steady expansion of its third-party marine fuel sales.
The firm formally launched in June 2022, starting by covering the bunker requirements of the Signal Maritime pools before rolling out the service to third parties.
But the purchases for Signal are now a relatively small share of the marine fuels the company trades in, CEO Daniel Rose said in an interview with Ship & Bunker this week.
"We are currently transacting around 300,000 mt of product per year," Rose said.
"In Q4 we envisage approximately one quarter of our volume is with affiliated companies.
"As revenues grow, we intend to reinvest capital into developing our software products."
The company is aiming to become an established large marine fuels player in its own right, rather than targeting a sale in a few years. The firm currently has nine employees in its London, Athens and Dubai offices.
"Even though we are making steady progress, our market penetration, in terms of fuel sales, is very small, so we have a long way to go," Rose said.
"We're building a bunkering business for the future.
"We have all of the elements that we need to grow and scale in this business.
"I think we've got a good eye on what the future requires in terms of not just alternative fuels, but also in terms of tech, for the evolving needs of our clients.
"We intend to organically grow the business as we go forward and we will be adding more dedicated personnel as we go."
The Signal Group has a significant technological focus in all of its affiliated companies, and Shipergy has been aiming to use this to develop new services for the bunker industry since its inception.
The company announced its latest endeavour in this area, the Virtual Certificate of Quality, in October.
"We could have built products that focus on many different things, but we decided to start with bunker quality, because we knew that we had a large customer from day one that would value such a tool," Rose said.
The tool is now being used by 35 of Shipergy's customers, delivering insights on marine fuel quality for no extra cost.
"We basically acquire anonymous lab test results at an enormous scale; we have built multiple APIs which enable a seamless flow of data into Shipergy every day," Rose said.
"As the data is received, our back-end automations engineer it to make it structured, homogeneous and useable.
"Then any of our clients can then visualise the data that is pertinent to them, so they can see, for example, how good a particular supplier's TSP percentage is in Singapore for VLSFO, 380 and so on."
The product was born out of the need to improve on the data bunker buyers can get from traditional certificates of quality.
"It's becoming more and more common for bunker buyers to request a certificate of quality; that's good, that buyers are starting to become more prudent, but we often find that the COQs can be a little biased and out of date.
"Our VCOQ product is much more up to date and is less biased."
The firm now plans for further development in the services it can provide using technology.
"Going forward, we are going to deploy client feedback as our main inspiration for product development; for example, we have recently created another very simple tool called Fuel Beacon, which enables our clients to visualise which fuel products, including biofuels, are available at every port in close to real time.
"Anyone using the platform right now can immediately see which grades of biofuels are available, and the same for all of the more traditional grades.
"That goes down to the barge level, so you can also visualise which barges are working in which ports and which suppliers they're working for.
"We really are just getting started with product.
"Many of our affiliates have really interesting proprietary datasets that we haven't started deploying in our product, but we expect to change this situation in the future."
The company is also making inquiries into joining various alternative fuels markets, although this is at an early stage.
"We have been guiding our affiliated fleet with regards to biofuel availability, pricing, and quality concerns etc and we are close to transacting our first bio deal for them," Rose said.
"We are seeing more frequent enquiries from third parties, and we expect this trend to continue, especially if [EU carbon allowances] becomes more expensive in 2024."
On LNG, the company is not currently involved in any deals, but has the capacity to do so if demand emerges from its customers.
"We have supplier relationships, and we have the mechanics in place to trade it," Rose said.
When it comes to other alternatives, Shipergy is likely to wait until these markets become more active before engaging with them.
"We try to steer clear of the bigger-picture discussions around alternative fuels and future fuels, because no one's asking me to sell them ammonia today, and I don't think they will be for another few years.
"But we're very focused on the practical elements of decarbonisation; that's biofuels, that's understanding EUAs and the pricing of both of those elements."
This year's downturn in bunker markets was having a dampening effect on the growth of Shipergy's third-party bunker sales, but this may now be easing, Rose said.
"Since the end of Q1 the 'good times' of 2022 have definitely been over for traders and suppliers, and the market has been tough," he said.
"I think that many traders and suppliers have been suffering.
"Although conditions have been tough, we have been clawing our way into the market; we observed the number of inbound enquiries increase from 166 in Q2 2023 to 301 in Q3 2023.
"This increase in 3rd party demand prompted me to employ a dedicated credit and compliance resource at the beginning of Q4."
But the downturn in the market has also had one positive effect, in leading to more bunker traders becoming available to hire.
"Although we have an excellent team in place today, one of the biggest frustrations I had in
the early phases was attracting good commercial people," Rose said.
"2022 was a boom year for traders and suppliers, and for that reason it was very difficult to get people to move.
"Today the picture is very different, and I am very pleased with the pipeline of people we have joining the company over the next six months."