Digital bunkering gains traction on cost, environmental grounds -

Digital bunkering gains traction on cost, environmental grounds

The announcement that marine fuel supplier Minerva Bunkering has launched a digital bunkering platform at major hubs comes amid a wider industry trend that embraces digitization in order to lower emissions and raise transparency.

The marine fuel sector has long been considered opaque, but there are an increasing number of announcements indicating the industry is looking to overcome this and making use of big data to do so, made possible by cooperation between stakeholders.

Minerva announced the commercial launch of it is Advanced Delivery Platform (ADP) at Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp, Fujairah and Singapore on Feb. 25 in a statement, adding tanker owner Hafnia has started a long-term supply contract for deliveries using the ADP.

The ADP is available to all customers and offers ship operators complete transparency over the quality and quantity of fuel they purchase, according to the statement.

“Without transparency, bunker buyers are forced to rely on price as an often-flawed proxy for value,” Minerva CEO Tyler Baron said. “The ADP provides the complete transparency that is necessary for customers to discern and achieve the best overall value for their bunkering spend.”

Platforms such as ADP save repeating tasks and, therefore, save time.

“The average international transaction involves 27 to 30 different parties, 40 documents, 200 data elements [30 of which are repeated at least 30 times] and the re-keying of 60%-70% of data at least once,” Philippe Salles, head of e-business, transport and supply chain at Drewry Supply Chain Advisors, told S&P Global Platts in a November interview.

Trade documentation is thought to account for up to 20% of the actual physical transport costs for bunker transactions.

Harnessing big data can trim the repetition and save time and labor, equating to money.

Environmental considerations

The case is also being made for digitization to abate fuel consumption and emissions.

Digital solutions such as blockchain technologies and autonomous shipping can drive emission reductions via increased efficiency of marine transport, analysts at HSBC Research said in a report Feb. 10.

Blockchain technologies allow the digitalization of procedures to reduce emissions, through greater supply chain visibility, data sharing and reduced paperwork, the HSBC analysts said.

The technology can aid decarbonization, since digital platforms in logistics can make real-time tracking of supply chains better, and, thus, reduce and optimize fuel use overall in the system, resulting in lower CO2. However, blockchain technology used would also have to be driven off green resources for the most significant gains.

The development of smart ports has helped reduce congestion and waiting time for ships, which has reduced emissions both around ports and in terms of overall greenhouse gases.

The Port of Hamburg is using digital technologies to create SmartPORTs, which monitors real-time traffic and operations. In line with the pronouncements of Drewry’s Salles and the HSBC Research analysts on the cost and environmental possibilities of digitization, the port’s website says the software reduces emissions and saves money.

Hamburg is aiming to double its capacity by 2025 using just smart technologies and with no size adjustments, according to news reports.

Also, tracking what emissions the shipping sector is producing is argued by some to be the first step toward reducing them. Technology providers are accordingly offering charterers digital solutions to monitor pollution from ships and hit the International Maritime Organization’s climate targets for 2030 and 2050.

One example is the Climate Trace coalition. Launched in July by nine partners—including nonprofits, technology companies, and former US Vice President Al Gore—it will use artificial intelligence, satellite image processing, machine learning, and other remote sensing technologies to monitor worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Cost savings

Perhaps the most visible result of the push for digitization is cost reductions.

IBM and container line A.P. Moller-Maersk’s blockchain-enabled platform TradeLense allows efficient exchange of information. HSBC analysts said this results in estimated savings of $38 billion/year for shipping carriers.

Separately, Maersk Tankers and US commodities group Cargill have launched a partnership to pool bunker volumes, with a view to offering a bunker procurement service to tramp shipping companies. The larger scope of the partnerships means a considerable amount of data will be available.

“By digitizing, centralizing and analyzing the large amount of available data, the service will offer increased reactivity to market conditions and refined views on short and mid-term price outlook,” Maersk Tankers said in a statement.

Blockchain can also provide an effective solution as banks tighten credit due to difficult market conditions amid the pandemic, industry sources said.

Bunkers are often used as collateral but seldom verified. Blockchain and synthetic DNA can be used to mitigate this problem as it enables the physical tagging of these assets and provides a secure digital repository for banks and financial institutions to access as well as a tool to check instruments such as letter of credits, they said.

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