Interview: Bunker giant Equatorial champions SGTraDex’s digital efficiency opportunities

 Director of Singapore-based bunker supplier says the platform will cut out time-consuming manual processes. 

Choong Sheen Mao, director of Equatorial Marine Fuel Management, believes the bunker industry has been too slow to adopt new technologies. 

That is why Equatorial, which delivered 4.5m tonnes of bunkers in Singapore in 2021, was quick to join as a participant in data highway platform SGTraDex. 

Efficiencies gained from using the platform, Choong told TradeWinds, could result in savings in the region of 50,000 man-hours as it cuts out many time-consuming manual processes. 

“We thought SGTraDex was quite innovative. Traditionally the bunker industry has been seen to be very slow to adopt technology. Its people don’t really understand — for them this is a bit esoteric,” he said. 

Small to medium shipping enterprises, Choong noted, have been slow to adopt new digital technologies because of cost. 

And that, he said, is what makes SGTraDex so inviting. 

“There isn’t much cost involved. It is more about understanding the potential and how to utilise it,” he said. 

“For us to join, we had to be SGTraDex ready. You need a certain level of digital readiness to be able to join. If not, it doesn’t really benefit you.” 

Digital data loggers
Choong explained that for SGTraDex to be workable, companies need to make sure the data they input into the platform itself is secure. Equatorial has begun installing digital data loggers on its fleet of 21 bunker tankers that are connected to the mass flow meters. 

“When we talk about the physical world to the digital world, we have to make sure that whatever is collected from the physical world — our mass flow meters measuring the quantity of bunkers being delivered — is accurate,” he said. 

Equatorial Marine Fuel Management has begun installing data loggers to the mass flow meters on its bunker tankers. The loggers immediately upload data to the SGTraDex platform. Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier

Equatorial Marine Fuel Management has begun installing data loggers to the mass flow meters on its bunker tankers. The loggers immediately upload data to the SGTraDex platform. Photo: Jonathan Boonzaier 

This is an easy task for bunker operators in Singapore because the country’s Maritime and Port Authority has made it mandatory for all bunker tankers to use approved, tamper-proof mass flow meters. 

Choong described this as being a strong foundational basis for the industry to adopt SGTraDex because the regulated meters ensure that whatever data is collected is reliable. 

“It also has TradeTrust recognition that the data is not tampered with. What we see is the information that comes after the delivery has happened, and we can immediately release it to the different stakeholders — the banks, the buyers, whoever is relevant,” he said. 

Choong said Equatorial is in a unique position because it does not just sell bunkers. It also owns, manages and operates its own tankers and, therefore, knows how the current system is very time consuming due to its outdated manual process. 

Currently, all documents are generated manually. Data from mass flow meters are written down by hand, and original tickets are sent back to the office. Only then can invoices be drawn up and physically sent to customers. 

This results in a long time lag between the physical delivery and when the customers and their bankers receive the information they require. 

Choong said with SGTraDex this process has become instantaneous. 

“With our tankers that are SGTraDex ready, a digital tanker delivery note is immediately produced. Digital documents are automatically generated and sent directly to SGTraDex and everyone has access to the data. Invoices are generated automatically.” 

Equatorial, Choong said, conducts about 20 bunkering operations per day, or 1,000 operations per year.

“Imagine how much time we save,” he concluded.  

See also: https://www.tradewindsnews.com/technology/bunker-giant-equatorial-champions-sgtradex-s-digital-efficiency-opportunities/2-1-1230488at