Nine convicted for mass flow meters-related bunker fuel tamper in Singapore
30th September 2021 08:22 GMT

Nine members of a criminal syndicate were convicted in 2020 and 2021 for offences under the Computer Misuse Act for using industrial strength magnets to tamper with the mass flow meter, or MFM, equipment on board bunker tankers Southernpec 6 and Southernpec 7 to cheat buyers of marine fuel oil.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore revoked the bunker craft operator and bunker supplier license of Southernpec (Singapore) Pte Ltd with effect from May 8, 2019 and May 29, 2019, respectively, after the syndicate’s illegal operations were discovered during an enforcement check by MPA in April 2019, a joint statement by the Attorney-General's Chamber, the MPA, and the Singapore Police Force said Sept. 30.

Buyers were cheated of $336,930.63 worth of MFO in total, which came to light during joint investigations by the MPA and the SPF, it said.

"The criminal syndicate’s tampering with MFMs on bunker tankers Southernpec 6 and Southernpec 7 was conceptualized by the masterminds, and carried out by the cargo officers on board," it said.

The masterminds supplied and taught the cargo officers how to use the magnets on the MFM and the magnet caused the MFM to record a higher amount of fuel than was actually delivered to the buyer, an Annex describing the modus operandi of the syndicate said.

Accordingly, the nine offenders have been sentenced to prison terms that range from two weeks to as high as 35 months, depending on their offence.

This comes as the MPA clamps down on bunker industry malpractices to hone the integrity and transparency of the mass flow metering system for buyers of the fuel in the world's largest bunkering port.

Mass flow meters were mandated for all marine fuel oil deliveries in the Port of Singapore from January 1, 2017 and for all distillates bunker delivery from July 1, 2019 to increase the integrity of bunkering operations as well as to weed out errant players.

In 2020, the city-port saw the launch of two new bunkering standards -- SS 660, the code of practice for bunker cargo delivery from oil terminal to bunker tanker using MFM, and TR 80, the code of practice for meter verification using master MFM -- which has only raised transparency, sources said.


MFMs, a welcome move


A source from a shipping company said that the incident rate of bunkering disputes over delivered quantities has “really been very low” since the implementation of the MFM.

“There is hardly any dispute. Some shipowners also prefer to pay a higher premium to purchase from the more reputable bunker suppliers to mitigate any risk of falling prey to malpractices,” the source added.

The MFM provides buyers with a deeper sense of assurance when bunkering at the port of Singapore, while disputes are more likely related to inaccurate tank calibrations instead of malpractices, a trader said.

A Singapore-based bunker supplier said that MFM on the bunker barges are regularly calibrated to adhere to the mandated specifications to reduce the frequency of quantity-related disputes.

“The buyers are also encouraged to lodge complaints via official channels to request for formal investigations,” the bunker supplier added.

Another industry source said that the MFM system was particularly beneficial in the COVID-19-affected environment, when contactless bunkering was encouraged at some ports. With MFMs, the process is very “well-controlled,” even in the absence of a bunker surveyor, the industry source said.

Meanwhile, the joint statement by the AGC, MPA and SPF said that "the authorities take a serious view of such criminal activities and will not hesitate to take firm action against those who commit offences that undermine Singapore’s international reputation as a trusted shipping and bunkering hub."

Bunkerworld .,
30th September 2021 08:22 GMT