UAE-headquartered marine consultancy and bunker surveying company Viking Marine Services is bullish about the bunker fuel testing and surveying sector globally as the International Maritime Organization’s 0.5% global sulfur cap comes into force in 2020.
“With all the different fuel blends in the world, there’s going to be more demand for fuel testing, and that’s going to put stress on bunker sampling,” Viking Marine’s managing director Vikram Mohan told S&P Global Platts Wednesday.
“We already have a technical division which takes care of P&I claims, but we’re looking to diversify ourselves vertically. So we’re working with a few fuel testing labs in this area,” he added.
Mohan, a master mariner with more than 20 years of experience in ship and shore management, reckons the shipping industry will switch to ultra low sulfur fuel oil and marine gasoil in 2020.
“Refining ports like in India and Saudi Arabia could find themselves at an advantage, but I wouldn’t rule out Singapore. It will just have to free up tanks for ULSFO and MGO,” Mohan added.
Viking Marine Services opened its third bunker surveying office last month in Cyprus. The new office is also its first foray into the Mediterranean.
“We’re looking to test the Mediterranean market. Cyprus is a convenient location, there are lots of Russian and Greek shipowners and some 50 shipping companies that call at Limassol,” Mohan said.
For a start, the company aims to survey 20 ships a month in Limassol, Piraeus, and Malta combined, he added.
Over in Fujairah, where the company has been headquartered since 2014, Viking Marine has about 14 bunker surveyors.
“We weren’t doing much Qatari-flagged vessels, but there has been a 10-15% overall drop in [ship] agency, [bunker] survey and port calls since the Qatari blockade,” Mohan said.
Sanctions on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt since last June have prevented Qatari-owned and flagged vessels from bunkering at Fujairah until further notice, weighing significantly on demand.
Fujairah’s bunker sales slipped to 8-9 million mt last year from 11-12 million mt the previous year, according to traders’ estimates.
The UAE port lost its position as the world’s second-largest bunker port to Rotterdam after the Qatari diplomatic dispute shifted demand away from the Middle Eastern hub last year.
Industry sources said that the demand has mostly shifted to Singapore, but other ports including Gibraltar, Salalah and Bandar Abbas are also thought to have benefited.
In Singapore, where the company has another office, Mohan said demand for bunker surveying has been good despite the mandatory use of mass flow meters for fuel oil deliveries since January 1 last year.
“Surprisingly, our Singapore volume is growing. Ours is 90% a tanker market, we don’t survey that many bulkers,” Mohan said.
Viking Marine Services received its bunker surveying license from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore in February last year, and has since grown from three to seven bunker surveyors, with plans to recruit two more underway.
The number of bunker surveying companies in Singapore has remained steady at 48 this year from 51 last January, defying predictions that the implementation of mass flow meters for fuel oil deliveries would result in a sharp contraction in the bunker surveying sector.
Singapore is the world’s largest bunkering port. In 2017, bunker sales in the city-port rose 4.2% year on year to a record 50.6 million mt, MPA data showed.
MFMs measure the flow rate in the pipe, gauging the quantity as well as the mass and density of the fuel.