An interview with Nigel Draffin

An interview with Nigel Draffin


In the second of our series to get to know IBIA members, we talk to Nigel Draffin, founding member and long term IBIA Board Member. Nigel is currently Chair of the Board Development Working Group, a Consultant, Lecturer and Author.

  1. Please can you tell us a bit about yourself

I am an individual member of the association and a strong supporter of retaining individual membership as part of the membership “mix”. I was one of the original IBIA steering committee in 1992, and have served on the Council of Management and then, as an elected member of the Board on a continuous basis (except for three years, 2006 to 2009) and for one year after my term as Immediate Past Chairman was completed. I was Association Chairman in 2012 and I was re-elected to the board in 2014.

Over this entire time, I have been a bunker buyer for a large fleet of tankers, a bunker broker with a shipbroking company and then worked with a specialist bunker broking company, a lecturer on various bunkering and shipping training courses and have acted as an arbitrator.

I currently serve as Chair of the IBIA Board Development Committee and participate in a number of the Working Groups. By profession I am a Marine Engineer and I have been involved in shipping since 1966 at sea and ashore. I started burning marine fuel in 1966 and I am still dealing with the problems and challenges of doing so.

  1. Are there any specific issues that are particularly important to you and your business?

My particular interests are the training and education of our membership and the wider shipping community. I am also very keen to see effective standards introduced for the ship to shore interface for all bunker transfers, both of normal fuels and LNG.

  1. What are the opportunities for IBIA in your region/industry sector or the future?

Whilst the mix of fuels used will change over the next 10 years, the overall level of business will continue to increase and this will provide opportunities for all sectors and regions. The key will be having the imagination to spot the trends and to identify how to use these to grow business. 

Our sector faced a massive change in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the shift from coal to oil fuel. The next 10 to 20 years will see changes just as significant, but with a greater degree of complexity and a much higher demand for human and financial resources.

  1. What are the challenges for IBIA in your region/industry sector or the future?

The traditional supplier business models will fade away as the product mix and the regulatory burdens increase. At the moment it is difficult to see if the current level of consolidation can continue with suppliers increasing the range of products they handle, or if the market will fragment into niche sectors with specialists focusing on different fuel types.

This may seem unlikely if one limits the view to residual, “hybrid fuels” and distillates, but as soon as we bring LNG, LPG, methanol, biofuels, and hydrogen into the mix then the niche market model may gain traction, as each new fuel brings its own technologies and challenges.

  1. How does being a member of IBIA benefit your role and your company?

My membership allows me to communicate freely at a formal and an informal level with other members with their own perspectives on industry issues and with colleagues active in trade associations with whom we have reciprocal arrangements.  This interaction keeps me informed, encourages me to keep learning new things and helps me to develop cogent and reasoned opinions on many issues of the day. Unlike a traditional trade association, IBIA encompasses stakeholders from across the full breath of our industry. This means that in committee, at informal gatherings and in the convention, we have a rich variety of experience and opinion and learn to listen to them all, before developing our personal positions.

  1. Do you have any message for any members considering getting involved with working groups, regional executive committees or considering standing for the Board?

Do you think you can make a difference standing outside the tent and muttering? No, you have to come inside, get involved and have your say. You will make many friends, you will learn new things, you will understand the intentions and the actions of the regulators much better but best of all you will make a difference.

It is so important to get “new blood” involved and this starts with the working groups and sub committees. The time commitment is minimal, e-mails, occasional teleconference calls and occasional meetings. But experience at this level will give members a chance to understand the workings of the association and hopefully encourage some to stand for election as a board member. Here the time commitment is greater, three meetings a year and a monthly teleconference but the work is vital to keep the Association moving forward.

      7. Any tips for someone considering a career in the bunker industry today?   anything you wish you had known/someone had told you when you started out?

Get some experience in operations. That is the one area that ties the rest of the business together. You do not need to spend six months connecting up bunker hoses and standing about in the rain at night, but everyone should at least visit a real bunkering.

If you are a seller, ask one of your regular clients if they can arrange for you to visit a ship, it will transform your understanding of what is going on. Young people just starting out should look for an employer who will let them spend time in different departments to give them an understanding of the whole picture. It is easy to say “you don’t need to understand the finance/credit side just yet, get on the phone and start talking to clients” but that is missing the point, the better you understand the whole process, the more effective you will be and in the long run, the more money you will make for your employer.

One last word of warning – people who come into the bunker industry tend to stay in it. Either that is because the work is interesting, there are a lot of nice people working there or maybe we just become unemployable anywhere else! If I last until September 2016, that will be 51 years.

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