Technology and efficiency - BIMCO Bulletin

Technology and efficiency

TECHNOLOGY AND EFFICIENCY December 2019 Blockchain and synthetic DNA can increase bunker supply transparency By Craig Eason, Journalist and event host Craig Eason is a business journalist, editor, photographer, event moderator and public speaker. He reports on the transformation of the shipping industry and has been covering the regulatory framework, technological developments and social and environmental impact of shipping for 15 years. Craig is editorial director of Fathom World, a provider of news and information relating to the changes in the maritime sector, and former Deputy Editor of Lloyds List. The delay in testing results poses major problems As fuel quality and standards become increasingly important after 1 January 2020 when the IMO 2020 sulphur regulation requires fuels supplied to ships to have a sulphur content not exceeding 0.50% transparency in the bunker supply chain becomes increasingly important too, and innovative measures are needed. The bunker supply chain, from refinery to ship bunker tank, is varied and often long, sometimes involving the blending of different refinery products from many sources to meet regulatory requirements. To ensure ships are supplied with the products they need, trust and collaboration throughout the bunker supply chain is needed, notably in the ports. This is, however, not something for which the industry is renowned. In addition, when a vessel comes into port, and the bunker delivery note is taken and samples siphoned off, it takes days often weeks to hear back from a testing laboratory whether those samples are of the specification required. The bunker supply chain, from refinery to ship bunker tank, is varied and often long To ensure shipowners and operators can trust they are getting what they ordered and paid for, a new company BunkerTrace is developing a solution to give shipowners and operators complete insight into the supply of the bunkers they purchase. While the majority of bunkers supplied to international tonnage are ordered against the ISO 8217 specifications, along with the requirements under MARPOL (such as sulphur content) and SOLAS (flashpoint temperature), the delay in testing results poses major problems. Tracking the journey of fuel BunkerTrace is a start-up that has recently been launched to promote what it calls an infallible system that can track the journey of ships bunkers, all the way from the refinery to the bunker tank, and help identify if it has been tampered with and, if so, by whom. The system brings together the technologies of blockchain and synthetic genome or DNA manufacturing into a tag and marker process that promises to increase transparency in the bunker industry. The company was formed when the Copenhagen-based Blockchain Lab for Open Collaboration (BLOC) teamed up with UK-based Forecast Technology, a company specialising in DNA tracking technology that is well established in the food and pharmaceutical industries. BLOC subsidiary Maritime Blockchain Labs has funding from the Lloyds Register Foundation to search for ways that blockchain technology immutable transparent digital ledger systems can be utilised in the maritime industry. One project was in bunker delivery transactions, and in 2018 it coordinated tests to bring blockchain technology into bunker delivery paperwork. For its part, Oxfordshire-based Forecast Technologies can create thousands of unique and identical DNA or genome chains that can be added to a supply chain to create transparency. The initial project between BLOC and Forecast was to look at how oil, or fuel, could easily be marked and identified so that in the cases of oil spills, the source or culprit could be found. BunkerTrace chief executive Marc Johnson says the setup of using a synthetic DNA trace added to a fuel supply in small but well defined amounts and the ability to record all the data in a secure ledger system like blockchain, allows a real-time picture of fuel to ensure it remains to the specification of the shipowner. Almost immediate test results While the BunkerTrace system cannot stop all dubious activity, it can help shipowners have the confidence that what they order for their ships is what they get. For the oil majors supplying good quality fuels, it is an opportunity to demonstrate transparency and that the fuels they supply meet the standards expected. The launch of BunkerTrace and recent demonstrations of the technology are not coincidental. Many vessels are switching over to use fuels that have a sulphur content not exceeding 0.50% ahead of the IMO sulphur regulation. But with the switch to compliant fuels comes the risk that the blends of products could easily become off-specification, or deliberately tampered with by unscrupulous bunker suppliers and traders. It can help shipowners have the confidence that what they order for their ships is what they get BunkerTrace offers the ability to test a sample of the bunkers being supplied to the ship as it is about to be taken onboard. The testing, with a special portable sampling device, can give back information about the supply almost immediately. But Johnson points out that while BunkerTrace removes the uncertainty of whether a sample has been tampered with or changed, it does not determine if the bunkers are compliant or meeting a required specification. It can, however, flag where such concerns exist. While BunkerTrace is promoting the use of DNA tracers and secure data storage to help shipowners with fuel compliance, there is another use for DNA markers that is also being considered in shipping. Dudley Chapman, chief executive at Forecast Technologies, says the company has been in talks with Canadian authorities concerned with ensuring its Arctic coastline and waters remain pristine. Canada is seeking to make it compulsory that all vessels permitted to enter the Arctic waters of Canada have fuel supplies marked with synthetic DNA, enabling any leaks or spills accidental or otherwise to be traced. Photo (top): Adobe Stock / metamorworks Johnson also envisages the use of BunkerTrace in carbon accounting. He says the company is in discussions with stakeholders to incorporate carbon accounting to drive decision support systems such as the IMO data collection requirements as the industry works towards a lower carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas footprint. Connect with BIMCO Facebook Twitter Linkedin YouTube