Interview with Mustafa Muhtaroglu, Owner, Chief Executive Energy Petrol and Board Member, IBIA

Interview with Mustafa Muhtaroglu, Owner, Chief Executive Energy Petrol and Board Member, IBIA

Mustafa Muhtaroglu was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1962. He graduated from the Istanbul University Faculty of Economics in 1984, was awarded an MBA degree from the same faculty in 1986, and completed a PhD in Economics.

He started his career working for the Turkish Maritime Bank in 1986 and moved to the UK to study Economics and English language.   He started working in the bunker industry, when he joined physical bunker supplier Baytur Trading S.A in 1987 and became sales manager there in 1990. 

In 1993, Mustafa left Baytur Trading and formed ACM Energy as a bunker trading company in partnership with others. He left ACM Energy in 1997 and founded his own physical bunker supplier company Energy Petrol in Istanbul. 

Through the foundation of Energy Petrol, Mustafa has been involved in every aspect of bunkering from sales to operations, cargoes, storage, barge owning, managing, blending, trading, finance, customs, legal and administrative issues. Today, his company is one of the leading physical bunker suppliers in the area, owning and operating a total of eleven barges including the biggest fuel oil supplying bunker barge in İstanbul, the 3659 dwt MT DENİZ M, and four new build bunker barges, which recently joined the fleet as the MT DEMRE series.

Mustafa is an expert on Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea Bunkering, he was the Founding Chairman of the Turkish Bunker Association in 2001 and was elected to the council of IBIA in 2003 and the IBIA Board in 2009.    He has been an Assembly Member of the Turkish Chamber of Maritime for two full terms between 2004 and 2013.

Mustafa says;

I have worked in the bunker industry for the last 30 years without any interruption and have been involved with IBIA since 2003, serving as both a council and board member.

I started out working for a bunker supplier and established my own company in 1997.  Energy Petrol has grown every year since its formation and in 2015, the company grew by a further 38% becoming the third biggest supplier in Turkey.  Today, Energy Petrol is reported to hold more than 15% of the market according to top oil authority EMRA (The Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority).

Over the years there have been many bunker suppliers in Turkey including Shell, Mobil, Bomin, Addax, OW Bunker, Chemoil, Lukoil as well as some local companies, but today, they are no longer here while Energy Petrol has solid market presence, and a reputation as a reliable, reputable supplier for many years, delivering excellent high quality services to its clients.  Furthermore, I can add that we have an unbreakable world record, with no single significant quality or quantity claim for all of the time that we have been operating and supplying more than 50,000 ships.

Are there any specific bunker/maritime issues that are particularly important to you and your business?

The biggest issue for all of the industry is the proposed global cap of 0.50% on fuel sulphur content which will come into effect in either 2020 or 2025.  This needs to be decided quickly, as the change will have massive implications for everyone and we need to know as soon as possible in order to plan our future business operations accordingly.

What do you think will be the opportunities and challenges for IBIA in your region in the future?

IBIA is a well-known international association in the region, with a lot of active members.  Our scope includes the Black Sea, the Aegean, the Eastern Mediterranean, where most of the ports are still developing, and so there is still plenty more for IBIA to do.  For a representative like myself, I can try to support both sides and improve relations and market potential.

I was one of the founders behind the Istanbul Bunker Conference in 2003 and chaired it for five consecutive years between 2005 and 2013. I arranged for IBIA to be a supporting partner, and over the years ever since the first conference, many speakers from the association have taken part. I have always supported IBIA’s presence across the region, and was able to convince IBIA to organise one of the Board meetings in Istanbul, to coincide with the 6th Istanbul Bunker Conference in 2013.  I hope that I can continue to build IBIA’s presence in the region following my recent appointment to the Board for another three-year term in 2016.

Why did you join IBIA and what made you get involved first as a council member and then as a Board member?  How does being such an active member of IBIA benefit you and your company?

As founding chairman of the Turkish Bunker Association and the creator of the Istanbul Bunker Conference, IBIA approached me and invited me to join the IBIA council in 2003.  At the beginning it was a crowded affair, with 25 council members, but the establishment of the Board created a more focused association, and I was pleased to serve IBIA as one of only 11 Board members.

I have extensive experience and an in-depth knowledge of the bunker industry, I founded a physical bunker supplier from nothing, and today have built a real success story.  But, much of what has made my business a success, I have learnt from those around me in the industry over the last 30 years, and now I want to share my knowledge and experience and give some of that back.

Do you have any tips for someone considering a career in the bunker industry today? 

Before answering, we should first consider the state of the industry, unfortunately the intellectual level of the industry is not what it should be, and the solid values and ethical behaviour that used to govern the industry have been eroded.  This is important and we must work to regain this. 

When I first joined the bunker industry there were many extremely knowledgeable, very professional people who set high values, observed business ethics and treated all those around them with respect.  Many of these people came from a shipping background and had considerable experience in operational, technical, commercial and legal matters.  They were all linked to shipping bodies, having worked as captains or engineers.  They understood seaborne trade and had management skills, as well as a good knowledge of all of the commercial and economic aspects of the industry. 

Today, in my view, the bunker market has become more like telephone marketing.  Today, very few of the people working in the industry have any shipping, engineering or oil experience. The educational standards and management skills are low and many people have never even set foot on a ship or a barge or visited a port trying to sell bunker fuel.

We need to attract well qualified, well educated people.  Together we need to work to reinstate good business values and must present ourselves as bunker experts, providing good quality knowledge and a professional service to our clients across the market. 

Too often you meet people who were until recently, selling clothes or car spare parts and now it’s bunker fuel… I think this is wrong and very damaging to our industry.  This is a very real concern and I am determined to change this perception, to make our industry a top quality and highly respected sector once again.

So in response to the question, I would suggest that anyone considering a career in the industry should first learn about shipping, and the operational and technical issues on board a ship.  They should also work to increase their intellectual ability by studying every aspect of the industry including economics, management and the legal aspects. 

Today many people believe that the bunker business is simply a matter of how much you bought and how much you sold, they are not really aware of how much that ship is earning (or losing) per day and if it can pay for its bunkers, they only look at it from a marketing perspective.  It’s not just marketing, there are so many other factors involved, marking the difference between quality and professional bunkering or not, we have to consider such details, see the differences and applaud those who deliver a high quality professional service.

The bunker industry needs some ‘characters’ and ‘names’, some inspiring industry leaders, anyone starting a career in the industry should definitely aim to be one of these future industry leaders.   I know far too many people who are selling bunkers today, but don’t even know the name of the port just 30k away from their home in their own country.

Was there anything you wish you had known/someone had told you when you started out?

When I started in the bunker business there was no real international bunker market in Turkey. There was only a state company which served locals.  We were the first and only international bunker supplier, so there were no good sources to learn from.  I visited Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and England to learn everything I could. I visited some of the shipping giants in Northern Europe, I worked very closely with the long established bunker broker traders, owners and managers to learn about the industry’s values, code of practice and ethics.  

Today, too often a bunker education means ‘finding a client and giving a flat price’.  We really have to stop this culture, take a breath and reset our standards, we need to show the market that we can offer knowledge and the ability to deliver solutions.

In this respect IBIA is very important, there are 783 members, all believe in IBIA and all expect IBIA to improve their business.   I have now convinced the Board to set up a ‘Commercial Committee’ which will work to address the concerns I have mentioned.  I will be the Chairman and with the other members of the committee, we will work to address the concerns around ethics, trading fairly, establishing a code of conduct and much more besides.  Together we will work to improve our industry, and to set higher better standards.


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