It would be a shame if Singapore got a reputation for being the Wild West of bunker trade, says Carsten Ostenfeldt, Chairman of the Singapore Shipping Association's technical committee, to ShippingWatch in reaction to the recent articles about international bunker fraud.
"Singapore is very much aware of the dangers of getting a reputation as being a place of where bunker fraud thrives. We can't allow this to become the general perception held at shipping offices around the world, because in no time there'd be neighboring countries aspiring to take over parts of the huge bunker trade currently taking place in Singapore," says Carsten Ostenfeldt, CEO of ship management company Thome.
The region is constantly working on efforts to secure trade in the area, he adds, including the fact that the Singapore Shipping Association and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore are constantly updating the standardized bunkering procedure known as protocol SS 600:2008, which serves as a guard against the bad applaes that will always be found in an industry such as the fuel trade where so much money is changing hands.
"With 20 tons of fuel it might be possible to make USD 5-10,000. In a 3,000 ton VLCC bunkering, those 20 tons could easily disappear, and there are some individuals who will see this as a chance to exploit. It takes a lot of effort to stop the kind of people who are looking to exploit the opportunities that come with bunker fraud," says Carsten Ostenfeldt.
The authorities in Singapore are constantly working to eliminate the problem, and most recently a Russian engineer was sentenced to two weeks in prison as well as a fine of USD 30,000 for accepting a bribe in relation to a bunker transfer. In addition to the engineer, the independent controller and the barge operator were also found guilty of fraud.
"The people who do this are criminals and will be treated as such. There are some people who choose to commit a crime if the gains from stealing another persons property are big enough. It's important to keep that in mind when dealing with this problem, and the only right way to deal with this is by doing what Singapore is doing," says Carsten Ostenfeldt, adding that the extent of the problem has been reduced significantly in recent years, and he points out that the only reason the problem is prevalent in Singapore is because of the high concentration of bunker trade in the region.