As the shipping industry moves to zero emission operations marine bunker traders prepare themselves for sustainable marine fuels will lower or zero carbon. In this framework KPI OceanConnect, one of the greatest bunker traders in the world has showcased agility and innovation by completing one of the bunkering industry’s first carbon offset/carbon-neutral marine fuel supplies.
In the interview that follows Michalis Manassakis, Managing Director of KPI OceanConnect Athens describes the innitiatives of the company to fulfill the fuel spectrum of its clients’ needs regarding the supply of sustainable marine fuel and explains the company’s digitalisation strategy to improve efficiency and transparency of transactions.
– Do you agree that the effects of Covid-19 have accelerated the digitalization process of shipping? Has your company exploited this major disruption to increase its resilience and prepare for further growth?
– The effects of Covid-19 as well as the need to decarbonise and the digitalisation of the sector is likely to require an evolution of operational strategies in the coming years. We’ve embraced digitalisation with our marine fuels platform KPI AuctionConnect. This is at the forefront of digitalisation with auctions being completed successfully for clients within 15 to 20 minutes, therefore greatly improving efficiency and transparency of transactions. Digitalisation supports our drive for an even more efficient business that provides our partners with the fuels they need to optimise their performance. Digitalisation and technology are only going to increase over the next few years, and KPI OceanConnect is ready with digital tools to support our customers navigate through transitionary and volatile periods.
– Do you believe that the increasing need for eco-efficient and sustainable shipping operations has led to the development of new innovative services & solutions? Describe your company’s activities on this issue.
– We’re committed to becoming an industry leader in shipping’s journey to tackle decarbonisation, and we see many developments across the industry that are advancing sustainability. We provide expert advice to our partners on everything from new legislation and regional regulation to alternative marine energy options and ways to offset and decarbonise voyages. In recent months, we’ve showcased our agility and innovation by completing one of the bunkering industry’s first carbon offsets/carbon-neutral marine fuel supplies. We were also one of the first marine fuels companies to establish an Alternative Fuels and Special Projects division. This new function will drive environmental and sustainability change throughout our clients’ marine fuel supply chains, and it will look to break new ground in developing knowledge and insights as well as collaborating with like-minded partners to support the facilitation of the energy transition. These advancements will enable us to fulfil the full spectrum of our clients’ needs and enhances our ability to support them in achieving their sustainability ambitions. We will work with our customers to put in place a fuel procurement strategy that meets the needs of today in conjunction with the demands of a future decarbonised shipping industry.
– The COVID-19 collapse in oil prices last year made the case for sulfur scrubbers less urgent. Do you believe that the rising low-sulfur fuel price could stimulate scrubber resurgence?
– Going forward, scrubbers will play a role in the future marine energy mix, as will alternative fuels and carbon offsetting. The economics are currently still favourable towards scrubbers as the marine fuel spread between VLSFO and IFO reaches around $210 in some regions. Those who have invested in scrubbers will not only see compliance for IMO 2020 but also a relatively short payback if the spread continues to remain elevated.
– Do you believe in the crucial role of the human factor in shipping? Are you afraid that the technology (AI & automation) threatens the traditional mode of hand-on ship management?
– We believe that adopting digitalisation and working with technologies enables us greater transparency and improves efficiencies across the supply chain for our clients. Digital platforms can complement bunker trading by reducing time and increasing efficiency. However, the human factor will still remain very important and we expect the personal touch to continue to be a differentiating factor for us going forward. Our traders in Athens office are coming from different shipping backgrounds and so they meet different customer needs and can provide them with the best insights about the market. Partnering with an organisation that delivers advanced marine energy solutions on a global scale that is consultative, innovative, and financially strong adds value for shipowners, operators, and charterers.
– Do you provide technical advice/guidance to your customers in choosing the right fuel and oil in order to ensure the reliable performance and keep water and contaminants out of the marine engine?
– KPI OceanConnect’s deep understanding of the market, agility and innovative qualities provide us with the capabilities to robustly support customers and provide them with the solutions they need to enable them to thrive. We work closely with our clients to maximise their efficiencies, providing our clients with a 360 degrees service that ensures quality and compliance. Our expertise ensures that our clients will have access to the right quality fuel wherever they are and whenever they need it. With offices across the world, we can also operate in every major maritime hub and time zone, therefore combining local knowledge and innovative thinking with global coverage. Apart from bunkers, KPI OceanConnect specializes in the lubricant market and provides competitive prices either on a spot or contracted basis.
– What are your future plans to expand your market share in shipping and stay competitive in a continuously uncertain market?
– For the past 50 years, we have been a prime mover and agile partner in the shipping industry, so we’re well-positioned to support our business partners to thrive in any market transformation. We do this by providing the best solutions in response to the increasingly diverse and complex nature of the marine fuels market. We’re closely monitoring the developments of alternative fuels as we want to ensure we provide the right products for our customers. As our customers’ needs evolve, especially as we approach 2030 and 2050, we’ll be there to support them every step of the way whether it be biofuels, methanol, ammonia, LNG, etc. Through our partnership approach, we offer reliable and trusted expertise and real-time market intelligence, which is an important asset as we approach market transformations. Having a trusted partner that has the technical expertise, local knowledge and global experience really make a difference to your operation success. We have the vision, experience and flexibility to ensure that we continue to meet our customers’ needs, and provide them with the right guidance to empower them in navigating the industry’s transformation. Our focus in on growth and we are currently looking for the right candidates to join our trading team in Athens.