Around 150 guests from various sectors of the marine fuel industry attended Petromedia's exclusive Bunker Lunch on Monday, kick-starting executive networking in true style at Floridita in the heart of London's West End on the first day of International Petroleum Week.
"This is the fourth time we have run the event, the first event of what I hope proves to be a successful IP week or 'The Bunker week' as I recently heard it called," said Matt Cape, Chief Executive Officer for Petromedia Group, in his welcome speech.
He noted the huge number of bunker industry players "that now descend on London" for the annual IP week, which sees a number of bunker industry events and parties.
"Just monitoring the subscription traffic on our bunker-focused websites (Bunkerworld and Ocean Intelligence) it has been very clear that our industry is being very closely monitored," said Cape.
"The traffic on Bunkerworld alone has grown to over 60,000 unique visitors a month, creating in excess of 600,000 page impressions. That makes Bunkerworld as heavily trafficked as either Tradewinds or Lloyd’s List … And we just cover marine fuels!"
Cape also noted the importance of managing credit, and how bunker buyers are increasingly aware that price alone does denote the value of the fuel they are negotiating over.
"Quality is a significant issue that they need to understand, if only to ensure compliance to ever tightening regulation."
He then introduced Edwin Lammers, Executive Commercial Manager for the Port of Sohar, the primary sponsors of the 2013 Bunker Lunch.
"Bunkering is like the 'mother-in-law' who always comes along with shipping and port business," Lammers said as he introduced the relatively new port in Oman, which, with current investments exceeding $14 billion, it is one of the world's largest port development projects.
Lammers pointed to the port's strategic location in the Middle East, just outside the Strait of Hormuz and not far from the region's main bunkering hub, Fujairah.
The port offers a number of marine and ship supply services, including bunkering. There are two bunker suppliers; Omanoil Matrix Marine Services Co LLC, which is the most active, and Shell Oman Marketing Company SAOG.
Lammers said the fast-growing port's main advantage was the ability to offer time-efficient services in an uncongested area.
Also addressing the Bunker Lunch was Reverend David Potterton of the Sailor's Society, a global charity focused on delivering welfare services to seafarers in ports around the world.
He said the world's 1.2 million seafarers often feel isolated, and the Sailor's Society offers them both practical and emotional support.
The charity's chaplains are there to help seafarers find a phone, a shop or other things ashore "or just someone to talk to," said Potterton.
"Why do we do it? Because we can," he said, adding that the charity does of course rely on donations to be able to offer this support to seafarers of all nationalities and creeds.
Later during the lunch, the Managing Director of the leading independent Maritime Credit Analysis company Ocean Intelligence (OI), John Phillips, shared his view on the current market.
His main concern is that the market does not seem to be recovering from the downturn that began in 2008, casting doubt on the idea that the cyclical nature of the shipping market still applies.
"I've never seen a market like this. It is a very difficult market," Phillips said.
He said there is "no doubt" that more companies will be going down in 2013, and cautioned about a number of factors that bunker suppliers, in particular, need to be aware of to manoeuvre through a risky landscape when it comes to credit risk.
Petromedia's CEO Cape, in his opening speech, noted that the analyst team at OI has "doubled in size over the last two years," and predicted it will double again in the next two years as companies seek information to "identify every available angle" on the market.