Rotterdam, Antwerp and Zeebrugge Will Require Fuel Meters to Stop Cheating

bunker barge
The port authorities in Rotterdam and Antwerp-Bruges will require fuel meters starting in 2026 for all bunker vessels (file photo)

Published Oct 11, 2023 7:28 PM by The Maritime Executive

The port authorities for Rotterdam and Antwerp-Bruges are continuing to move forward with their efforts to make the bunkering markets in their ports more efficient and address long-standing concerns over cheating and shorting deliveries in the operations. The ports are moving forward announcing that they will make mass flow meters mandatory as of 2026 to address the issues in their markets.

At the end of 2022, the two port authorities announced they were working to address the long-standing issues and catch up with other ports around the world that had already instituted technologies to prevent these operational issues. According to the Dutch and Belgian ports, independent research has confirmed the recurring quality issues in the bunkering markets at Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Zeebrugge.

Starting January 1, 2026, operators in each of the ports will be required to have certified bunker measurement systems on board the fuel barges and bunker vessels. The system will indicate the exact amount of fuel that is being delivered to each seagoing vessel bunkering in these ports addressing the concerns about transparency, efficiency, and reliability.

The port authorities report that they expect this will have a “major impact on the bunker market.” They said that currently just 40 out of the 170 bunker vessels operating in Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Zeebrugge are equipped with a bunker measurement system.

They have spent the past few months consulting with the various stakeholders in the ports and working to develop a realistic roadmap to implement the new measurement systems across bunkering operations in the ports. They also reviewed the differing legal frameworks in Belgium and the Netherlands before proceeding with their plan.

The ports believe that by setting the start date as 2026, all the bunker operators will have sufficient time to adapt to the new measures. They note that Antwerp-Bruges has already begun including the requirement in the permits issued for bunkering vessels. The permit for bunker transporters in Rotterdam has not yet been updated.

The European ports are following the example of other major bunker markets that have already made meters mandatory. Singapore began the rollout of the technology five years ago and since then reports a dramatic improvement in the market. 

Singapore also closely monitors the operations and audits the metering systems. They have identified attempts at cheating which have been met with strict penalties which can include canceling bunkering permits. 

In 2021, a court in Singapore sentenced nine individuals to jail after the Maritime & Port Authority discovered in 2019 a cheating scheme during a routine audit of the systems. Similarly, in 2022 Singapore arrested ten men working as crew aboard two tugboats suspected of stealing fuel from their employer and selling it illegally in the market.