4 Actions To Bolster Your Liquid Bulk Supply Chain Performance

Do you wonder how to bolster your supply chain performance in 2023? In September 2022, I attended the first International Energy Safety Conference in Singapore hosted by TIC Council and Tankbank International.

Speakers provided an expanded scope to discuss safety and ethical behavior in the petroleum and petrochemical industry and gave updates on topics and issues of common interest in this rapidly evolving market. Major industry players such as AmSpec Group, Saybolt International, Bureau Veritas Group, Intertek, Camin Cargo Control Inc., SGS, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ExxonMobil were present.

This article is written by Rudi Stalmans and featured in the 2022 winter edition of Tank News International.

Based on the exchanges and presentations at the conference, I put together the below four actions to bolster your liquid bulk supply chain performance. Take these steps in 2023 to achieve success.

ACTION 1: Increase your preparedness

After the opening address by Hanane Taidi, Director General of TIC Council, and by John Hodson, CEO of Camin Cargo Holding and Vice-Chair of TIC Council’s Commodities Committee, an important question was raised by Toine van Moorsel, Global HSE and Dangerous Goods Manager at Saybolt. He asked the audience if they were prepared for the pandemic and how long it took them to adapt their operations.

My first recommended action is to increase your preparedness for any possible scenario. You can start by updating your business impact analysis with a clear understanding of your main products and services and the activities that underpin them. Your contingency plan is an advanced plan to prepare your business for future events, and your continuity plan is a temporary solution to keep your business up and running in case of a sudden event. So, on top of robust contingency planning, ensure your business continuity plans are in place and up to date. Also, people sit at the heart of each business, so planning for employees to be off work for illness or other reasons is an essential consideration when developing a response plan.

ACTION 2: Continuously improve health and safety

David Gauci, Global Lead Product and Testing at Saybolt, focused on the spectroscopic examination of tanker washing waters. That is an innovative method of assessing tank cleanliness that limits the need to physically enter tanks while producing reliable and repeatable results in a shorter time. Mark Harrison, Global Technical and Operational Excellence Director at Intertek, marked the challenges and hazards that inspectors and surveyors face when boarding vessels and touched upon cases of lessons learned, informing participants of the injuries suffered by personnel in the past. Melanie Dill, Global Inspection Company Contract Holder at Shell, moderated a discussion around the Stop Work Authority as an accepted mechanism to protect inspectors and site personnel despite potential costs and demurrage. These discussions at the conference clearly show that the industry cares about health and safety and is continuously looking for improvements.

The second action is to improve health and safety continuously. Health and safety should be the top priority for every person and company in our industry. Communication and cooperation between stakeholders are crucial. Issues faced by the different players, such as terminal operators, shipping companies, traders, and surveyors, need to be put on the table to develop solutions that benefit the whole sector.

ACTION 3: Anticipate supply chain changes

Tony Quinn, Director & CEO of Tankbank International, explained how the main tank terminal hubs have developed over the years as changes in the supply chain took place. He commented that global energy transitions take 50 to 75 years. He then also showed that while the energy transition cycles are getting shorter, it took the world more than 100 years to move from crude oil to start using natural gas.

Since I am fascinated by history, I would like to elaborate on this topic. Before the Industrial Revolution, people used wood for heating and animal power for transportation. Firewood and charcoal shortages into the 17th century resulting from high demand initiated a shift to cheaper coal. Production efficiencies accelerated the use of coal in innovative solutions, such as the steam engine. Oil became a dominant commodity one hundred years after the first United States commercial oil well started operations in 1859. Demand for oil increased massively with the invention of car assembly lines and the soaring demand for combustion engine cars after the second world war. Gas became common for cooking and heating once pipeline transportation became possible. Despite the shift to gas and electricity for heating and cooking and the use of oil in transportation, coal remains a significant energy source to generate electricity. As countries accelerate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions, renewable energy such as wind and solar are expanding worldwide. With net-zero emission targets by 2050, there is enormous pressure to replace all fossil fuels. That won’t be easy! History shows that each energy transition requires extensive new infrastructure investments to generate, store, transport, and distribute. On top of this massive investment, a shift to low-carbon sources also requires a drastic change in our energy consumption and lifestyle habits.

While we will see long-term changes related to the energy transition, there are also short-term challenges. Trade routes are continuously changing, for example, because product flows are changing due to war or lockdowns.

Serena Huang, Vortexa’s APAC Lead Analyst, illustrated the impact on trade flows during the conference and highlighted the role that innovative trade flow, freight, and inventory analytics can play in decision-making. Action three is to anticipate these long and short-term supply chain changes and develop the capabilities to react.

ACTION 4: Develop supply chain excellence

The final action is to develop supply chain excellence. I delivered my presentation titled “Building a resilient and sustainable liquid bulk supply chain”. At the end of my talk, the audience understood why supply chain resilience and sustainability are crucial and found out how to start taking the first steps toward supply chain excellence. Do you also need to improve your liquid bulk supply chain performance? Let me know. I am here to help!

Photo Credit: Canva