As a top bunkering port, Singapore will, from 1 January 2017, implement the mandatory use of the Mass Flow Metering (MFM) system which involve devices installed on all bunker vessels licensed by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to deliver Marine Fuel Oil (MFO) to vessels bunkering within the Singapore port waters. The automated MFM system is meant to dispense with conventional sounding of the MFO in bunker tanks as the quantity of oil transferred from the bunker vessel to the receiving vessel will be automatically measured by the MFM device as the oil passes through the device. At the completion of bunkering the device will issue a printed Bunker Metering Ticket (BMT) showing the delivered quantity as witnessed by the bunker vessel's cargo officer, vessel's chief engineer and the bunker surveyor (licensed by the MPA), if one has been appointed. The Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) prepared by the cargo officer will be based on quantities stated in the BMT and it will be presented to the chief engineer to sign at the same time as when the BMT will be signed by both the cargo officer and chief engineer and both documents attached together and copies thereof distributed.
The MFM system is mainly meant to minimise, if not eliminate, human inaccuracies and errors in measuring the quantity of bunkers by the traditional manual sounding of tanks. Hence in line with this aim, parties to the bunker delivery operations have to, prior to the commencement of bunkering, perform various checks of the MFM system, for example, like inspecting the seals on the device which should be fully intact and untampered/unbroken and the sampling equipment provided by the bunker vessel should also be checked to ensure that they are in good working order. Sampling will be by a device attached to the end flange of the delivery hose for the connection to the bunker manifold flange of the vessel.
As the mandatory MFM system for bunkering in Singapore is a completely new practice, there is no official historical record of issues, problems, disputes and steps taken, whether technically or legally to resolve disputes. A few bunker suppliers have apparently practised the use of the MFM system in more recent times and there have been (unofficial) reports of satisfactory results for a vessel's bunker final receipt quantity (as measured by the vessel) but there are also reports (unofficial) of shortage in deliveries and ensuing disputes. As the MFM procedures will be totally new to most ship operators and their shipboard personnel, it would be advisable that owners or charterers who are having vessels bunkered in Singapore port on/after 1 January 2017 to always arrange through their local shipping agents a licensed bunker surveyor to attend.
For more information, the following links are suggested for reading:
Link 1: MPA's Port Marine Circular No. 08 of 2014: Mandatory Adoption of Mass Flow Metering System for Marine Fuel Oil Delivery in the Port of Singapore
Link 2: MPA Frequently asked Questions (MFM)
Link 3: MPA's Mass Flow Metering Best Practices
Link 4: MPA's Mass Flow Meter Dispute Management
There is a Technical Reference book on the MFM system: TR48: 2015 which spells out the technical details including MFM procedures. All licensed bunker surveyors are obliged to be fully conversant with all technical and procedural matters. TR48:2015 booklet may be purchased from Toppen Leefung Pte Ltd, website: www.singaporestandardseshop.sg at SGD81.32 (including GST).
The Association is grateful to Mr. Richard Kong of Seaborne Agencies Pte Ltd, Singapore, for contributing to this article.