27 September 2015 – Shipowner interest in vessel fuel monitoring and MFM solutions has been partly responsible for the success of Singapore-based Ascenz, says its CEO.
Singapore-based mass flow meter (MFM) bunker fuel monitoring solutions provider Ascenz has come a long way since its 2008 startup. It began operations with a staff count of just two. It now has over 20, with offices in Taiwan, South Korea, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and most recently operations in Nigeria.
EXPANSION TO NIGERIA
Ascenz partnered with technology firm Citracks to introduce its Coriolis-based MFM marine fuel management solution to the Nigerian market in July.
“Nigeria is a new territory we are targeting in terms of coverage,” Chia Yoong Hui, CEO of Ascenz, told the Bunker Bulletin. “There are a lot of things to do over there but marketing of our marine fuel monitoring system will still be the main focus.”
The units will help protect shipowners against cheating because they allow operators to know how much fuel is being used, and how much is remaining onboard a vessel.
Another product, a MFM pairs with a paired with a human machine interface (HMI), named the Ascenz BunkerXchange (HMI), is also being marketed in Nigeria, says Chia. The system is able to accept data from a MFM delivery tool, such as the Ascenz-designed, developed and built bunker skid solution, to display the bunkering proﬁle while printing out a receipt after a bunker transaction.
PRODUCT EVOLUTION & EXPANSION
The current version of the system has changed considerably from earlier, simpler designs when Ascenz launched its products in the market place. The company’s ﬁrst market entry was the introduction of the Ascenz controller; a fuel monitoring device that is able to pair up with MFMs of any model and remotely transmit operational details from a vessel’s bunkering activities to an onshore terminal.
The ﬁrm’s latest offering includes the Ascenz BunkerXchange HMI, which can be integrated into established bunkering systems and comes with a graphic display for operators to visualise and monitoring real time bunkering data.
It also markets a bunker skid solution named Ascenz- Bunker Skid, which is currently being used for marine fuel deliveries at Yangon, Myanmar. The device works using the same concept as a petrol station pump and is able to record the volume of bunkers delivered from a terminal to a vessel and vice-versa.
“We started out with hardware and then moved onto the supply of data and simple tools,” says Chia. “Now, we have a bigger team to invest into more in-depth tools for the end-user with advanced and streamlined functions. “Today, we work more on software and tools for ﬂeet management,”
According to Chia, Ascenz is now working on a future project to help shipowners calculate the optimum speed of a vessel in order to reduce fuel consumption.
The software is able to take into consideration engine information such as torque, shaft and various power readings together with factors in weather conditions such as wave heights. The collected data will be processed to analyse the sailing condition of vessels and recommended suggestions to improve fuel eﬃciency.
TECHNOLOGY AND INVESTMENT
These developments into technology would not be possible without funds from Green Marine Capital (GMC), the investment arm of global maritime company BW Group in December 2013. The investment builds upon a previous $482,000 cash injection Ascenz received from technology incubator Red Dot Ventures in January 2013 to expand its business globally.
Even today, when bunker prices are low, there is shipping industry demand for fuel monitoring solutions, believes Chia, who adds that shipowners are “still ﬁguring out best way” to monitor vessels.
“Most of the owners do some form of monitoring. But the issue is that they don’t really know what they want and what to monitor,” he notes.
Chia observes the industry’s need to implement technical measures required by international regulations, such as the Ship Energy Eﬃciency Operational Indicator (EEOI).
However, confusion over the collection, organisation and presentation of data points has resulted in adoption challenges due to the industry being 10 to 15 years behind technology.
“Why should I gather hundreds of data points if I just want to know one single thing to make a ﬂeet eﬃcient? To my observation people are waiting as they still don’t know what is the best solution they should go to,” he says.
The use of data mining with cloud computing, where information is stored on the Internet that various oﬃces can access, will be the way to go moving forward. “Data doesn’t simply mean any data collected. You need good, accurate data,” explains Chia.
“This is the space where we work very hard by providing accurate data so it will be collected in the database server. With the data collected you can actually run any application to do modelling on the datasets using business tools. The information gathered can then be used by the management for its purposes.”
MFMS IN SINGAPORE AND BEYOND
Ascenz, meanwhile, hopes to beneﬁt from Singapore’s decision to make the use of MFMs for bunker fuel delivery mandatory. “We guarantee the compatibility of the Ascenz controller with MFM devices as we were already working to cover the operational groundwork during the Singapore MFM bunkering trials since 2010,” said Chia.
“Getting the Ascenz controller to compliment the MFM should be a no-brainer for owners as it allows them to record physical bunker transactions in their oﬃce rather than going on board vessels. We expect to beneﬁt from the Singapore MFM mandate after our years of putting in the hard work.”
The use of MFM for fuel oil bunkering in Singapore will be mandatory for bunker supplies from January 1, 2017 onwards, and for distillates from 2018 onwards. Moving forward, Chia notes of an interest for Ascenz to expand into the European market.
“Europe is the next target in terms of commercial business. We expect to increase and improve our product offering by the time we are ready to venture into that region.”
By Gabian Chew