UK-based Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science (Hitachi) has developed two solutions – LAB-X and X-MET – aimed at helping ship operators and Port State Control monitor Sulphur content in bunker fuel.

Bunkerspot speaks to Paul Bunting, VP Sales and Service EMEA, to learn how these products are expected to assist in exercising and enforcing regulatory compliance.


BunkerspotWhat experience does Hitachi have with fuel testing in the shipping industry?

Paul Bunting: I think as a company, Hitachi has a long history with working with the testing houses in the ports, specifically on fuel analysis. [Testing] Sulphur in fuel is something which the LAB-X has been used for over the last 20 years. It has been one of the staple tools in the testing houses because it is very simple to use, very robust and very reliable, and it complies with well-established Sulphur test methods such ASTM D4294 or ISO8754.

BunkerspotWhy has the company developed two different solutions?

PB: What we looked at from a customer’s perspective are two areas of requirements. You have shipowners that want something that will sit on their ships, is simple to use, gives them a pass/fail and is easy to service and support. The port authorities, on the other hand, are the ones that will want to enforce the regulations. For them, it’s more about visiting a ship, being able to take a sample and measure it on site. At the moment, they have to send samples off to one of the port-side laboratories and that can take a couple of days, depending on the workloads those laboratories have. What we are suggesting is that they can do that on-site with our handheld solution. It has the same accuracy, meets the same ASTM standards, and delivers the same level of performance as the benchtop solution.

BunkerspotHow might the solutions fit in to the bunker-buying process?

PB: I think that is one of the areas that we are investigating in order to understand what additional areas it can help with. The initial request that came to us was purely for measuring and confirming that the fuel being burned was of [a compliant] level of Sulphur. Obviously, with the capability of the instrument, it could be used in other areas, for onboard testing and for oil cargo as well.

BunkerspotDo you think these solutions are more suitable for Port State Control or ship operators?

PB: Whereas previously enforcement might have been somewhat patchy, it is now starting to happen. I know that [the Port of] Rotterdam has invested in drones for monitoring ships’ plumes and I understand that the Danish Port Authorities are using sniffers to monitor incoming vessels. I would see that if port authorities have a vessel coming in that potentially does not comply [with emissions regulations], they want to be able to carry out tests very quickly. With the handheld solution, it would be very easy for somebody to turn up on the ship and test a sample there and then. We have GPS put into the equipment, so wherever it was sampled [this information] would also be logged.

[On the fuel buying side], the performance of either one of the two instruments could help. We want to work more with the shipping companies to understand where they’re trying to do that and then advise them on [how] one of these two options might fit. We’re not offering one instrument and trying to make it fit for everybody.

Bunkerspot: How accurate are the Sulphur measurements? Are the instruments designed to act as a guide rather than a comprehensive tool?

PB: The level of accuracy our instrument gives is extremely good. If there is a margin of 0.03% [for the buyer], I would be very confident that our solutions will operate well within that. This would give more confidence to the ship owners because I would imagine that the blenders are going to try and get their fuel as close as they possibly can to the limit.

Bunkerspot: How challenging has it been for Hitachi to break into the shipping industry?

PB: Whereas we were well-established onshore, we really were not established offshore because the testing was not being done there in the past. This is a relatively new area for us as far as the market goes. The technology and the application we know well. What we don’t know quite so well is the shipping industry and that’s where I have had to learn a lot.

Now, we have got to the stage where we are in discussions with shipping companies and they are very seriously considering equipping their entire fleet with a unit on each ship. It would be very nice to say that it was signed and sealed, but it’s certainly looking very positive. From that, and from other parties that are expressing an interest, we are starting to move out and talk to other people. It’s a little bit of a learning exercise but it’s moving in the right direction and it’s moving quite quickly.

BunkerspotDoes Hitachi have specific targets or objectives for the solutions?

PB: The LAB-X and X-MET solutions showcase Hitachi’s investment in technology and our long history in fuel analysis. We want to become the default solution for onboard and onshore Sulphur analysis, giving the shipping companies the confidence to know whether they comply with the regulations.

QControl LTD is the exclusive distributor of Hitachi High-Tech AS and delivers in the Greek Market the following solutions:

  1. Portable handheld XRF X-MET 8000
  2. Transportable benchtop solution LAB-X 5000

which perform superbly analyzing all the forms of marine fuels from the lowest needed concentration to the highest one. You can see both of these instruments live at the upcoming Posidonia 2018 exhibition where we are having our stand demonstrating their capabilities.