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World Bunkering Autumn 2010 27 them down to your senior management and then to middle man-agement and then to rank and file, in order for the company to do well. This is sometimes a challenge especially in these times where turnover of staff is high. We are continuously working on this." Singapore - opportunities ... What about Singapore? Why has the bunker industry here pros-pered in the way it has? He replies: " Singapore's bunker industry is entrenched and mature. We are way ahead of other ports in terms of our transparency, our systems and processes. We are already success-ful - we need to build on this platform of success - how do we do it? By constantly seeking to improve our processes, efficiency , and the capability and quality of the manpower in the industry. There is no point having the best hardware if the software is lagging behind. In Singapore, the Maritime and Port Authority ( MPA) not only leads but also provides significant support to the industry. MPA's vision and willingness to work with the industry has been a significant factor in the advancement and success of the industry. ... and challenges But there must be challenges facing the Singapore bunker industry? Mr Lim agrees and points first to increasing costs. He says: " Increased operating expenses especially in areas of wages and repair and main-tenance at a time of stagnating or decreasing charter rates present a serious challenge to the profitability and growth of the industry. Wage costs are increasing significantly, primarily due to shortage of qualified officers on board vessels and qualified shore superintend-ents. In addition there is a shortage of repair yards and facilities." Another problem facing Singapore bunker tanker owners and operators is a lack of finance for new vessels. " We need more financial institutions who are able and willing to provide financing for the pur-chase of such tankers for operations in Singapore harbour. Currently, there are less than a handful of banks willing to support this industry." He also points to a lack of technical knowledge, in insurance for example. He says: " For insurance, we need to learn from the experts who have set up shop here, assuming that there is a corresponding willingness to transfer such knowhow." Time for change? Looking ahead, how ready is the bunkering industry for change? Some classification societies, including BV, DNV and GL, are now pushing LNG as a viable, realistic response to very low sulphur limits rather than distillates. Does Mr Lim see Hong Lam operating LNG barges in five years time? Probably not, it seems. He comments: " Change will be gradual. This is an industry that requires intensive capital expenditure in terms of the infrastructure for the supply of LNG, bunker tankers that are built to carry LNG for bunkering, and vessels that are designed and built to use LNG as bunkers in lieu of fuel oil. A critical mass of ships that is built to consume LNG will drive the investment in building of LNG bunker tankers. LNG appears to be the future in view of the environment. Will it happen on a big scale in five years? I am sceptical. It is not only a question of the capital commitment involved but also of training the officers and crew to operate the dangerously explosive and flammable LNG tankers. I believe it will take more than five years to train the large pool of officers and crew required to operate such vessels in our congested harbour safely and efficiently. At this point in time there is no such training capability." He adds that Hong Lam Marine has been keen to keep up with new trends and innovations - building the largest double- hull bunker tanker in South East Asia in 2005 and the largest purpose- built bunker tanker in the world in 2009, and being one of the first in the region to equip bunker tankers to carry 500 cSt and then 700cSt fuel oil. " Moreover," he says, " we now have three tankers equipped with the mass flow metering system to enhance the integrity of the deliv-ery of fuels. In this I believe we are also one of the first. By the third quarter of 2011, we also believe we will be the first to take delivery of environmentally- friendly diesel electric propulsion bunker tankers. We try very hard to keep abreast of industry trends and requirements through constant dialogue with industry members and customers. A core part of Hong Lam Marine business is the provision of quality bunker tankers to our customers ( we do not have any fuel oil trading activities). Therefore, if there is demand for LNG bunker tankers, we will not hesitate to build and operate them, and we believe we will be one of the first to operate LNG bunker tankers if so required." Singapore is the world's busiest bunker port