A little under three years ago, Suncor began looking into opportunities for their West Coast facilities. “The marine industry was top of mind,” said Patrick Ritchie, General Manager, wholesale sales and site operations, Suncor. When describing the decision to enter into the bunkering service for foreign-flagged vessels visiting B.C.’s West Coast. “We started off with truck-to-vessel deliveries in February 2016 and quickly realized there was high demand and room in the market to offer another bunkering option to vessel owners and operators.”
However, the Suncor team didn’t want to simply duplicate existing services. “We wanted to provide a safe, reliable improvement over what was currently in the market,” he said. Canship Ugland Ltd. and the CL Aquarius were brought in to provide the Port of Vancouver’s first fuelling service by tanker.
Tracing its roots back to as early as 1917, Suncor has grown to become Canada’s leading integrated energy company. From mining, exploration and production, to refining and finally to retail under the Petro-Canada brand, Suncor has a nameplate production capacity of about 940,000 barrels per day. They have four distribution terminals in British Columbia: Burrard, Nanaimo, Kamloops and Terrace, supplying a variety of fuel products to customers throughout B.C. and internationally.
The Burrard Terminal, with three separate facility locations in both Port Moody and Burnaby, has been distributing fuel since the 1920s and today, distributes over three billion litres of fuel per year via pipeline, marine tankers, trucks and rail.
With the longstanding, successful business relationship with Canship Ugland Ltd. on the East Coast, Suncor saw the ship management company as a great fit in having them involved in the bunkering operations on the West Coast. A Canadian company — with Canadian crew and Canadian-flagged vessels — Canship Ugland Ltd. is a joint venture between J.J. Ugland Companies of Grimstad, Norway, and Knutsen OAS Shipping of Haugesund, Norway. They provide technical and crew management for a variety of vessels, including dynamically positioned crude oil shuttle tankers, product/chemical tankers, ice-breaking bulk carriers, multi-purpose offshore vessels, tractor tugs and pilot launches. The company has, over the years, been involved in providing technical and marine crew to OSVs, AHTS, Seimic, Cable Layers and FPSOs. Safety of life and protection of the environment are the top priorities for Canship Ugland.
During 21 years of tanker operations Canship has not had a single cargo-related release to sea originating from their vessels.
Tanker versus tug and barge
In North America, bunkering is traditionally done by tug and barge; globally however it’s more common to see self-propelled fuel vessel. “They have better manoeuvrability, more redundancies such as additional crew, engines and mechanical safety features and can operate 24 hours a day,” explained Ritchie.
In fact, there are many benefits to fuelling by a self-propelled vessel versus tug and barge:
Where a barge is towed with limited control and high risk in adverse weather, the CL Aquarius tanker is highly manoeuvrable with twin CP propellers, forward thrusters, twin independent rudders and full control even in the most adverse weather condition.
While tugs are manned by a two-man crew, the CL Aquarius has a full complement of qualified crew, all fully trained in industry regulations and best practice guides for ship-to-ship bunkering operations as well as high competency requirements for specific ship handling, pollution prevention, etc.
The vessel itself is fully inspected and classed by ABS, SIRE (the Oil Companies International Marine Forum’s Ship Inspection Report Programme) and Transport Canada, while under-tonnage vessels are not required to meet the same standards.
In addition to requirements for Safety Management Systems, vessel age restrictions and regular tanker management and self-assessment audits which are not required for tugs, the CL Aquarius has a 330 per cent better power to weight ratio than the typical tug/barge combination (i.e., a 1,000HP tug pushing a 4,0000-ton barge versus 2,600 HP plus a 400HP thruster carrying 3600 tons of cargo).
The CL Aquarius arrived in Vancouver in June this year, following upgrades to the 10-year-old vessel at the Yardimci Ship yard, Tuzla in Turkey. With 10 cargo tanks (4,326 cubic metres) and one slop tank (125.9 cbm), the CL Aquarius is currently providing marine gas oil deliveries up and down the B.C. coast. “This ship provides us with the opportunity to go to Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, English Bay and the Inner Harbour as well as all the way up to Prince Rupert,” said Ritchie. “Currently, our area of operation is predominantly the Inner Harbour, English Bay and the Gulf Islands.”
With the ability to supply vessels of 275 metres in length and up, Ritchie said the option of “going to the ship” is appealing for those ship owners and agents with a vessel anchored in English Bay. “Ships in the Bay that are waiting for a berth no longer need to come into the Inner Harbour for fuel and then return to anchor,” he said, adding that they are also able to provide verifications for the sulphur content of the fuel. “We make the product, so we are able to provide greater confidence in the make-up and its ability to meet current requirements.”
Ritchie also noted that they are in the process of adding intermediate fuel oil (IFO). “While this IFO isn’t a Suncor product, we are able to carry both MGO and IFO, so we are looking into this in order to meet our customer’s needs,” he said.
The company will continue to look at different options for the future but for now, the focus will in the Vancouver market will remain with the CL Aquarius. “Our main goal was to enter this market with a safe, reliable option for our customers. With a Canadian-flagged vessel, a Canadian crew and Canadian product, as well as an experienced marine department that has been dealing with chartered tankers for many, many years, we feel we’ve brought a real value-add service to the industry.”