A recent news article published in the Ship and Bunker features the interview marine Fuels Alliance Seeks to Empower Smaller Bunker Suppliers by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker.
Anthony Mollet appointed the MFA’s executive officer
New bunker industry group the Marine Fuels Alliance is preparing to take on new members in a formal launch this week as the organisation campaigns to give smaller suppliers a larger voice in the bunker value chain.
The organisation was first announced last year as a membership body with a particular focus on small- and medium-sized bunker suppliers. Anthony Mollet, who was appointed the MFA’s executive officer in October, set out the group’s aims in an interview with Ship & Bunker.
“The MFA is here to bring together industry stakeholders in a collaboration which allows them to interact with each other on hot topics, key agenda items right now, and hopefully build new commercial relationships,” he said.
The organisation is structured as a not-for-profit, but with a commercial focus on the benefits to members and partner companies. The MFA expects to launch a new upgraded website and membership drive during IP Week events in London this week.
Subscription fees to become a supplier-member or partner company to the MFA will be shown on the website, and opportunities to join can be discussed with Mollet directly.
“What it’s trying to solve is access to resources, access to key people, putting that in one place through a membership, which perhaps isn’t fully available elsewhere in the industry,” Mollet said.
“The intention is to have an online portal and membership area through which they will be able to see who our fellow bunker supplier members are, but also who our signed-up partner and associate companies are and what resource or product they have put into the Marine Fuels Alliance.”
Economies of Scale
One of the plans for the organisation will be that members can access services at prices they might not be able to get on their own. The services could include lawyers, insurance, credit reports guidance and fuel analysis.
Pooling demand under the umbrella of the MFA could allow for economies of scale that enable lower prices and more favourable terms for members, Mollet said.
“What a supplier should be able to get out of their membership first and foremost is access to companies that are offering services in a new way, the idea being of course that with volume, with scale, you may get better purchasing power,” he said.
“Let’s take the example of some of the financial tools; as we know, banks and insurers aren’t so interested in the smaller-scale bunker transactions for one guy with a barge.
“They don’t mind dealing with the tanker that brought the product, because it’s like 30,000 tonnes and worth a lot more money and has blue-chip trading arms involved.
“When you look at the smaller level of transactions that bunker suppliers do, that’s where the banks are showing some interest; they’re saying, if you could pull that into one place, then you’re talking numbers and scale that we’d be interested in.”
One challenge for the organisation in seeking to provide solutions in this way will be to ensure that any lapses in standards by individual members do not result in worse conditions for the membership at large.
“If a supplier for any reason at all, including bunker supply quantity shortages, quality issues, anyone is not behaving or having poor feedback, that will be addressed by the executive and the management committee and they could be voted out,” Mollet said.
The organisation may set up a feedback system that allows it to track where any problems may be emerging.
“The intention is to have something like a starred rating system, similar to TripAdvisor, where a supplier who ticks all the boxes and upholds all the MFA protocols and processes maybe gets a five-star rating,” he said.
“And then every time an owner enjoyed a good experience, they would give them that rating; equally, the opposite would be true.
“If you’ve refused to uphold the claims protocol. or the testing protocol, you could get a negative rating.
“We’re going to be very focused on member behaviour and the overall membership experience for all.”
Distinctions From IBIA
One concern raised about the MFA when it was first announced was on the extent to which its work would overlap with that of bunker industry body IBIA.
But Mollet explained the focus of the new body will be distinct from that of IBIA, working on smaller-scale problems and providing direct solutions rather than the big picture of the regulatory environment facing the bunker industry.
“IBIA is the longest-standing and overarching body in the industry, and what IBIA does all of us recognise as tremendous work across all the sectors,” he said.
“It’s essential that its working groups and its leaders continue to work on regulations and compliance areas. The MFA will become aligned with any association and organisation in the industry, bringing the benefits of its work to further raise the profile of stakeholders and counterparties.
“We’re trying to make things accessible to the supplier on a day-to-day level. We’re trying to make it possible for the shipowner to connect to the supplier more quickly.
Work With Trading Firms
In seeking to empower smaller bunker suppliers, the MFA’s work could potentially leave it at odds with the larger trading firms. But the organisation is not geared towards hostility to traders, Mollet said.
“Of the trading firms I’ve worked with and alongside, I respect that they provide excellent services and fundamental resources,” he said.
“They do an important job, and I’m sure many buyers and shipowners would say the same.
“The point of the MFA is to bridge the gap, take away the boundaries that prevent the shipowner dealing directly with the supplier.
“The traders are there for a reason, and the traders will always carry enormous weight when it comes to what they do with trading the credit and taking the financial risk, but that’s not to say that there aren’t suppliers that could do that, they just haven’t got the connection with the shipowner or the buyer.
“Suppliers should be able to connect with buyers in a way that is mutually beneficial and removes any levels of distrust or lack of knowledge clarity between the two counterparties.”
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Source: Ship and Bunker