Forum examines technology solutions for BDNs and sampling

Forum examines technology solutions for BDNs and sampling

Technology is available that can streamline the process of documenting bunker deliveries and make paper bunker delivery notes redundant. Technology may also help with that vexed issue of ensuring bunker fuel samples are reliably witnessed to ensure all parties agree on the sample being representative.

Both subjects were examined at the joint IBIA & Port of Rotterdam “Bunkering in the digital age” technology forum on May 16 in Rotterdam.

Using a rubber ship stamp on paper is hopelessly outdated, potentially messy and “needs to go away,” Jeff Mildner, one of the founders of Vortex Development Group told the forum. Vortex has created “Digital Bunker”, an Apple iPad solution that can record it all with pictures and data entry forms that can be customised to suit each company. Better still, because it captures all data, you only have to enter certain data once, after that it is in the system.

This helps with automation and can speed up the process. The documentation is e-mailed directly to all relevant parties in the transaction such as chief engineers, suppliers and surveyors. Mildner said this helps eliminate fraudulent documentation as none of these parties can tamper with it. The e-BDNs include GPS-referenced photographic captions of mass flow meter readings, ship stamps, ID badges, signatures and personnel photos.

The Vortex “Digital Bunker” system has a list of the world’s vessels with IMO numbers that users can access when filling in a BDN, and it is working to develop the system with other relevant data. Mildner demonstrated how the system can be adapted to various needs.

What makes a bunker fuel sample representative? That is only the case if you can answer ‘yes’ to multiple questions, Muhammad Usman, Product Manager – FOBAS, Lloyd’s Register EMEA, told the forum.

It has to be a drip sample, it has to be witnessed by both ship and barge personnel, the sample cubitainers and bottles must be clean and all the necessary documentation must be completed. In practice, this doesn’t always happen.

Because of poor adherence to best industry practices, we end up with disputes about what is the ‘final and binding sample’ to be used in the event of a quality dispute.  It varies with bunker contracts – usually it is the supplier’s retained sample, but there is an issue with lack of trust between the supplier and receiving ship.

Maybe technology can help, Usman said. For example, it may be possible to use remote video monitoring of the bunker station on the barge with a live feed to the ship’s chief engineer. WiFi makes this possible. Another option may be to record the complete operation on a pen drive that can be handed over to ship for record keeping.

Perhaps we will see the development of automatic samplers, involving a “black box” solution with seals that are checked before/after bunkering.

We are not there yet, but we need to resolve the issue of identifying a universally accepted way of taking a ‘final and binding sample’ said Usman. It is probably time for an internationally approved automatic sampling station on the barge, using the same kind of accreditation we now see for mass flow meter system, he concluded.

Report by Unni Einemo

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