By Michael Verdon
Can a new app transform the superyacht bunkering business? The makers of the Bunker Buoy plan on it. Bunker Buoy, with more than 5,000 fueling destinations, can now be found on the iPhones and iPads of more than 100 superyacht captains. A white-label version is also available on Y.CO’s online yacht management software.
The app, says developer RNF Digital Innovation, allows captains to send out bid requests from their handheld devices. The captain sends out the location, date, time and amount of fuel required. Pre-registered fuel traders then respond with their best prices.
“Previously, as a captain or yacht manager, you always have to seek out at least three quotes for fuel, but it was be done in a way that was not very efficient or transparent,” says Rob Mannion, RNF managing director. “But we have made that model more time-efficient so that captains can demonstrate they’re working in the interests of the owner at all times.” The captain or yacht management firm also has the option of using “Instant Chat” after receiving a quote.
Neil Miller, CEO of Bunker Buoy, said, for the moment, the system only puts out enquiries to fuel traders. “Yacht captains have used traders in the last 30 years and they hold the view that a fuel trader will give them more support should any problems arise,” says Miller. “The fuel traders existed and flourished for many years because they bridged a gap between the yacht and physical supplier. That gap is closing now.”
Miller says that the fuel supplier’s willingness to provide credit, and a yacht captain/owner’s desire to source less expensive fuel means a smaller role for the fuel trader. “Yachts are now happy to deal directly with fuel suppliers where they are comfortable,” he says.
Miller, who once owned Yacht Fuel Services, has seen changes in the bunkering sector, which is why he developed Bunker Buoy. “The industry is changing and the app over the next few years will lead the change as it further develops,” says Miller. “Traders and physical suppliers will both be on the platform if it is what the yachts demand. At the end of the day I am just responding to what captains, management companies, and most importantly owners require.” Miller plans to continue to white-label the Bunker Buoy to other yacht-management firms, who can then decide which fuel traders to include on the app.
Cerion’s has also had a significant impact on the yacht-bunkering sector. Developed for commercial applications in transportation, the fuel additive improves the efficiency of combustion, thereby cutting down soot (-40%, according to Cerion) and diesel odours (-70%). Richard Franklin, Cerion managing director, says the RINA-type-approved product is currently being used on over 200 superyachts. “The retention rate is 85%, so our customers have become very loyal,” he says. “They also tend to help with marketing by word of mouth.”
GO2 is distributed directly from Cerion’s warehouse in Southampton as well as through local partners in Palma, Barcelona, Italy, Antibes and Porto Montenegro. In the US and Canada, it is sold through gO2 Global Yachting, with additional distribution via partners like National Marine and Yacht Chandlers.
Franklin said the most difficult part of entering the yacht sector was to break down pre-conceived notions of existing fuel additives. “We currently supply enough GO2 to dose 5% of all fuel used by the superyacht industry,” he says. “We plan to increase that over time.”