"Fuel is liquid gold for shipowners,” according to Atul Shukla of Inchcape Shipping Services.
But reliable supply of bunker fuel with the right quality, volume and price remains a risky business and a small discrepancy can prove extremely costly, especially when running a large fleet.
Fuel accounts for a large proportion of vessel operational costs and a bunker quantity survey (BQS) is necessary to verify the amount of fuel delivered is correct, or provide information in the event of a dispute, and to take fuel samples for laboratory analysis.
This is especially important as the raised environmental focus in the shipping industry puts the onus on increased fuel efficiency to cut emissions, which also represents a cost saving for owners.
Fuel samples taken from vessels must be compliant with MARPOL’s International Convention for the Prevention of Air Pollution from ships and therefore fuel quality has become a priority for owners as they pursue more sustainable solutions, explains Shukla, Inchcape’s area manager for Marine Survey and Inspection in the Middle East and Africa.
“It is important for our clients to know that our BQS surveyors are impartial and trustworthy so that they can ascertain reliable information on fuel delivery in order to make well-informed commercial decisions on bunker supply, making this a big value differentiator,” he says.
Shukla believes credibility is a key factor as Inchcape has an experienced team of in-house surveyors who are not affiliated to bunker suppliers and are certified by the International Bunker Industry Association, which means they can provide an independent fuel assessment.
“Clients can rest assured that our surveys are carried out according to standard market procedures and meet the highest international standards on QHSSE, ethics and compliance, with uniform reporting standards regardless of location,” he says.
Single point of contact
Inchcape has expanded its team of BQS surveyors working out of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates and is now rolling out a similar service at other UAE locations including off Ras Al Khaimah and Jebel Ali.
Shukla says clients have a global single point of contact and can benefit from “significant cost savings” through being able to access BQS and the wider range of Maritime Survey and Inspection (MSI) services from Inchcape as their one-stop supplier.
Provision of these services is supported by an in-house team of master mariners, chief engineers, claims adjusters, mechanical engineers and naval architects, backed by Inchcape’s global network of expertise spanning 60 countries.
Credibility is also the keyword when it comes to marine warranty surveys that include reviewing the condition of vessel equipment and approval of marine operations for insurance purposes, with Inchcape already well established as the agents for Lloyd’s of London in the Middle East for several decades.
The company is also the regional claims adjuster for a leading insurance provider and the average agent for French insurance market CESAM in Abu Dhabi. In addition, it acts as the correspondent and surveyor for the majority of the International Group P&I clubs and represents a number of hull and machinery underwriters.
“We are seen as a credible player in the insurance market as we can act independently in reviewing method statements, providing recommendations and overseeing the operations end to end, in line with KPIs from Lloyds of London, which means that clients can rest assured they are in good hands,” Shukla explains.
Inchcape has provided marine warranty survey services for a number of prestigious projects with high-value cargoes including transport of the spindle-and-hub section of the Dubai Eye (Ain Dubai) – the world’s largest and tallest observation wheel that is due to open to the public soon - which marked a world record for the highest and heaviest lift.
Other projects under its scrutiny have been the Dubai Trolley and Doha Tram as well as, in the oil and gas sector, deliveries for an LNG project in Canada and an oilfield scheme in Iraq, among others.
The comprehensive package of MSI services provided by Inchcape ranges from breakbulk port captain entailing surveys to determine the condition of cargo at load and destination port, crane/wire inspections and inspections for hatch cover integrity to hull and machinery surveys and vetting of vessels and crew to determine efficiency.
Shukla points out that such monitoring is vital to mitigate commercial, as well as safety and environmental, risks for the shipowner by preventing mishaps such as water ingress in cargo holds or water pollution that can result in costly insurance claims.
Another key service area is underwater hull surveys facilitated by Inchcape’s fleet of battery-driven ROVs, which is both safer and more cost-effective than deploying divers to determine the condition of a ship’s hull.
This can also have a beneficial environmental effect by identifying biofouling of the hull that can result in more drag in the water, thereby increasing a vessel’s fuel consumption.
Inchcape has established a strong presence across the Middle East and Africa including in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Kenya and Mauritius.
Shukla says it is now expanding in Africa and South Asia by setting up shop to offer its services in Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda Djibouti, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and other countries in these regions.