Plum joined the firm in August when his marine fuel analytics company BunkerMetric was acquired by Alfa Laval. Image Credit: StormGeo
Alfa Laval weather and fuel optimisation unit StormGeo sees its purchase of a bunker procurement platform this week as the final stage of developing a comprehensive service for managing the use of marine fuels.
The firm announced on Tuesday that it had bought the platform from brokerage NSI, and was now launching its Bunker Management service.
Christian Plum, head of bunker product at StormGeo, set out what his firm has developed in an interview with Ship & Bunker this week.
"From the outset, the plan was to have a full, end-to-end platform for bunker buyers," Plum said.
The plan was to have a full, end-to-end platform for bunker buyers.
"The planning was the start -- what port and what volume you need to go for -- but we couldn't go further."
Plum joined the firm in August when his marine fuel analytics company BunkerMetric was acquired by Alfa Laval and merged with StormGeo.
"What we needed was something that could help the buyers to say, OK, I know where I need to go and that I need 500 mt, now how do I find the right supplier, find the right price and log all the transactional stuff," he said.
"We then got into those discussions with NSI, and agreed that this was the best match for finding procurement support.
"Knowing it had all the needed details in it, no kids' diseases, directly ready for the market."
How Does it Work?
The firm's Bunker Management service, delivered through StormGeo's s-Insight platform, now gives bunker buyers a detailed view of their fuel purchases from conception to delivery and beyond.
"What we're buying is a tool where you can enter the details of your request, what vessel, what entity is buying, what port, what locations is the berth or anchorage, what grade you are looking for," Plum said.
"You enter a number of details about what you're buying, and then you have a directory of suppliers, and you can select who you want to engage with.
A key part of the logic is that it's the bunker buyer that owns all the data.
"You can see the specifications, buyers' clauses, payment terms, then select a supplier and then send a communication to them saying I need a quote for this.
"Everything is logged in the system, so you can have the payment documents on what happened when, who did what, all the way until the bunkers are delivered, and then you do analytics afterwards on the price and other things to investigate, like did I buy at the right price against my benchmark."
All of the data involved will be controlled by the customer, not StormGeo, Plum added.
"A key part of the logic is that it's the bunker buyer that owns all the data," he said.
"We will provide the software and maintain it for them, but they need to fully own the data, and we cannot use that data in other contexts.
"So if they put in a price or some other critical information, we cannot use that information in other contexts, or give it to other customers.
"It's one thing that will differentiate us from others in this market."
Digital services like StormGeo's that can give shipping firms a better handle on their marine fuel costs are becoming increasingly popular as the industry modernises. They are likely to become even more so as the shipping industry moves to using more expensive alternative fuels, and bunkers take up a higher share of these companies' overall costs.
For a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, you can't just run this in an Excel sheet.
StormGeo is seeing demand for its Bunker Management service from across the board.
"It's everyone from the Greek customers with five ships to the large 200-vessel operators; anyone who wants to have more transparency and overview of the bunkering process," he said.
"More and more understand that for a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, you can't just run this in an Excel sheet.
"You need a proper system where you can watch everything and ensure that processes are followed."
Plum is confident that what StormGeo has developed is now a fully-formed service that meets most of the needs people have in managing their marine fuel consumption.
But some further improvements can still be expected, he said.
"We believe now we have a full bunker management product.
"We think it's the kind of end-to-end product the market is looking for.
"There's lots more that we could add -- improved consideration of contracts and so on -- but they're more standard software development.
"One thing is decarbonisation and the new fuel types; we will keep investing in that to consider the logic in detail and have something there to support customers with."