The following interview with Christian Plum, Head of Bunker Product, StormGeo, is part of coverage for the upcoming Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) 2022, where Manifold Times is an official media partner. Christian Plum was the CEO of BunkerMetric, which was recently acquired by Alfa Laval to be merged with StormGeo.
Plum breaks down how digitalisation improves bunkering operations, transparency in the bunkering sector and its role in helping shipowners meet IMO 2030/2050 emissions targets:
MT: Do you think the bunkering sector is adequately digitalised? What are the lacking areas/aspects which you would like to see an improvement in?
In the last five years or so, we’ve seen much good development in all aspects of digital support for bunkering, including data quality, planning, delivery, MFMs, and follow-up. However, only a few early adopters have leveraged these innovative techniques and are now reaping their benefits. What lies ahead is partly a refinement of these techniques, but I expect to see a more general adoption of them in the coming five years.
In addition to existing tools, techniques, and ideas already on the market, I believe we also will see new ideas emerge and increased integration of related services to create more holistic offerings.
MT: How can digitalisation improve bunkering operations? What are the commercial and operational benefits of operating a fully digitalised bunkering fleet?
There are several opportunities inherent in digitalising bunkering operations.
First, digitalisation makes it easier to conform to external regulations. In the last five years, we’ve seen new sulphur regulations, ‘no scrubber’ zones, and required MFMs in certain jurisdictions – regulations that aim to reduce environmental footprints and add transparency to the bunkering industry. Most likely, the external regulatory pressure will increase significantly in the coming five years, mainly due to a need to monitor and reduce GHG emissions but also to increase transparency. More complex rules require better systems to ensure compliance and to plan and manage the increased risk. Digital tools will play a critical role in allowing the shipping and bunkering industry to manage this increased complexity, keep costs down, and ensure transparency between shippers, insurers, and governments.
Second, operators can achieve time and cost savings by leveraging digital tools. With good digital tools, operators can identify better bunkering options in this increasingly complex environment, which may help reduce operational costs. Furthermore, operators can save time by leveraging advanced analytics to plan their bunkering operations in minutes instead of hours – time saved for more value-adding work.
MT: Could you elaborate more on how digitalisation improves transparency in bunkering operations?
Digital tools can ensure transparency regarding documenting decisions. For example, why did a specific vessel bunker 500 MT of VLSFO at Gibraltar? Having a detailed decision basis in the form of complete calculations of hundreds of alternatives helps justify decisions like this. Furthermore, these calculations can also ensure that, for example, trainee operators or last-minute schedule changes are handled with full detail within minutes, providing a consistently high-quality decision process.
MT: What are the current digitalisation trends for the general maritime sector and how can technology help shipowners meet IMO 2030/2050 emissions targets?
In addition to the opportunities highlighted above, digitalisation, especially in the form of sensor technology, big data, and advanced analytics, can help shipping companies gain deeper insights into their operations and identify better strategies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
MT: Heading into IMO 2030/2050, what is the biggest digitalisation-related challenge faced by the shipping industry and are there any solutions for this?
To add on my points above, an increasingly complex regulatory landscape requires better systems to ensure compliance and to plan and manage increased risks. This means that the shipping industry needs to start today and take advantage of the emerging digital tools that can help manage this increased complexity.