UK Startup Tracks Bunker Supplies with DNA and Blockchain

The dredger Prins der Nederlanden participated in BunkerTrace's first trials (file image courtesy Kees Torn)

Published Oct 21, 2019 4:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

A new startup has come up with an unusual solution to improve accountability in the bunker supply chain: putting DNA tracers into the fuel at every stage of the supply chain, then recording every transaction in a blockchain-based system. The system's developer, BunkerTrace, recently completed a successful trial of its service with the the bunker-buying pool Cooperative Bebeka and bunkerer Minerva, and it has now launched commercial operations.

By combining blockchain and DNA-based tagging, BunkerTrace creates an audit trail for the fuel and any changes made to it. It also records all transactions and activities involved in the fuel's marketing. This chain of custody paper trail provides evidence of compliance with IMO2020. It also ensures that at every point in the supply chain, it’s easy for stakeholders to check if the fuel they are moving, loading, buying or selling is the product that it’s meant to be, even if fuel has been blended or mixed, BunkerTrace says.  

“As IMO 2020 approaches, we’re seeing fundamental changes to the dynamics of the bunkering market, which in turn creates uncertainty and risk: risk for owners, charterers, credit providers and financiers in the fuels they buy or fund; risk for insurers in establishing the risks they must manage; risk for operators and the fuels they burn; and for enforcers policing the fuels market. That’s why BunkerTrace exists," said CEO Marc Johnson in a statement. 

For the recent trial at Antwerp/Vlissingen, the Boskalis dredger Prins der Nederlanden was bunkered with 900 cubic meters of 0.1 percent sulfur fuel supplied by Minerva Bunkering. The BunkerTrace marker was added to the fuel with a dosing pump as it was loaded onto a Minerva bunker barge. As the fuel was bunkered, the crew of the Prins der Nederlanden used an on-board sampling kit to test for the presence of the tracer. The test took under two minutes, and it was able to detect the presence of the marker in the fuel at a concentration of two parts per billion, according to the trial partners.

“These are unprecedented times for the bunkering market. As suppliers, it’s vital that we can increase our levels of transparency and build trust with our customers. It’s great to see an example of a technology that is going to make it much easier to do this in action," said Pablo Sansó Gil, head of sales (EMEA) at Minerva.