Inchcape surveys cover a wide range of shipowner needs, from above deck to below the waterline, with fuel concerns currently at the top of the list. “Bunker optimisation was already a hot topic, with the IMO 2020 sulphur cap regulations creating a new fuel reality,” says David Pratt, Inchcape VP Marine Services, Asia Pacific. “Now the situation has been complicated further by restrictions arising from the coronavirus pandemic.”
New fuel regulations have dictated changes in fuel specifications, he says, and owners need to be certain that they are getting the quality of fuel that they are paying for in order to ensure industry compliance. “Owners need reliable third party assurance, and our bunker optimisation package provides this. It’s a new fuel landscape out there, but you can still be confident of what you have in the tank,” Pratt assures.
Not just bunker quality, but quantity issues are common. “Deliveries of incorrect quantities are well documented. In some ports, we see averages of more than five-ton variance, and have identified one deviance of more than 100 tons as an extreme example,” says Pratt. To combat the problem, Inchcape offers reliable bunker quantity surveys in key locations around the world.
Leveraging a global network
Inchcape’s offering is designed to provide assistance and support wherever client needs arise: “We have an experienced agency and survey team partnered with surveyors around the world. Using our global network, we can provide a single point of contact for a wide variety of bunkering services, using on-site representatives with maritime expertise who are familiar with local regulations and restrictions,” Pratt assures.
Drawing on combined knowledge of agency and survey operations in their global network, Inchcape also delivers bundled bunker optimization services: “Bundling services saves costs, simplifies the transaction and ensures quality results for customers from a trusted partner,” Pratt tells.
Countering Covid disruptions
Inchcape can provide owners peace of mind in areas where bunkering problems are known to have existed, in addition to new locations that are opening up as the Covid crunch forces owners to look for alternate bunkering locations. “Owners need to have confidence that these locations are safe and reliable,” Pratt says. “As an example in China, Zhoushan is a developing location for bunkering activities, due to its proximity to Ningbo, and clear regulatory guidelines around Covid management.” “Importantly, Zhoushan, Xiazhimen anchorage, is currenly the only place in China for bunkering where port costs can be avoided, enabling a viable and very cost-effective option for our customers, in addition to the savings from our bundled product,” Pratt says.
Bunkering in Zhoushan occurs at anchorage, with surveyor attending the vessel by launch to monitor onboard activity. “The port is currently handling approximately 180 bunker calls a month and is starting to attract additional interest from vessels historically bunkering at Hong Kong in response to the benefits of this new location,” Pratt says.
Using new and more remote locations can influence cost as well, Pratt says. “The cost of laboratory testing is competitive in key locations, but testing in remote locations can be 2-3 times more expensive.” Bunker sample testing through a laboratory network addresses both cost and confidence issues through Inchcape’s trusted global network, he informs, and the results can be shared digitally through Email, online, or via a dedicated app.
“We are also looking at new technology to make rapid testing available worldwide,” Pratt adds. “Normally it takes 24 hours for test results to come back. When an immediate response is required, rapid testing can provide an option.”
Underwater drones – a simpler way to get below the surface
Inchcape recently equipped 10 stations around the world with BlueEye underwater drones, Pratt says: “This is a new technology that we can offer as a cost effective and safer alternative to divers. It gives owners a true picture of vessel condition below the waterline, including detailed views of the propeller and rudder.”
In addition to being more affordable than using divers, deployment is faster, minimising risk of disruption to vessel or cargo operations. Pratt notes that the drone can be set up and running in 15 minutes, and is fully portable: “Countries are implementing new bio-fouling regulations, and ships are being turned away from harbours for not meeting standards. This can have great economic and logistical consequences.” Should undue fouling be detected, he adds that Inchcape has partnered with a global vendor to enabling underwater cleaning or repair at multiple locations around the world.
Control across the board
Inchcape offers a wide range of surveys that cover all the key elements of marine operations. “We have surveys designed to mitigate risk to cargo or the vessel itself, including crane and wire inspections, cargo handling, and load master operations,” says Pratt.
“We support commercial aspects as well, helping cargo owners to optimise vessel loads in order to maximise voyage profitability. We can perform load surveys to avoid overloading the vessel, as well as trimming and draft surveys to enhance vessel performance, ensuring that the ultimate commercial value can be gained on every voyage.”
He notes that the task of marine surveyors is to mitigate and control risk. “Through an on/off-hire survey, a charterer can understand the condition of the vessel, both above and below the waterline, at time of on or off-hire of the vessel. They work to mitigate the risk during the charter period, ensuring that the vessel is suitable and compliant to region and deployed task.”
Trusted partners, provided by Inchcape
Inchcape has laid a solid foundation for their survey offering, carrying out internal reviews and benchmarking their services against globally accepted standards and processes. “Surveyors tend to work in independent ways. Our goal was to identify best practice and design the process from the ground up, including reporting and training, in order to ensure that all surveys align with group quality standards. This means the customer does not have to relate to multiple regimes. We do that for them,” Pratt tells.
“Large shipowning companies have their own surveyors who travel around the world, but they cannot do that now with Covid. Inchcape has people on site already, and we can manage local risks as well,” Pratt concludes. “Our global network is built on proven expertise. This gives us the ability to adjust to any situation, to fill the gap wherever needed.”
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