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BunkerTrace launches DNA and blockchain maritime fuel tracking

trade container ship

On Friday, London-based startup BunkerTrace announced that its blockchain and DNA fuel traceability solution had gone live. It aims to combine forensics and technology to track the movement of fuel through the bunkering, or refueling, process. The project is a joint effort between blockchain firm BLOC and Forecast Technology.

BunkerTrace adds synthetic DNA to fuel in multiple locations. The DNA acts like a unique tag which can be easily found from a sample of the fuel and does not affect its usability. Every transaction along the supply chain is logged in a blockchain along with quality tests. So, each specific trade is immutably linked to the fuel’s ID, which can be traced to its origin even if it was blended or mixed.

The launch comes a few weeks after a successful pilot of the technology in the Netherlands. It was conducted with Cooperative Bebeka, a bunker buying pool, and Minerva, a bunkerer. BunkerTrace’s DNA tag was added to fuel as it was loaded onto a Minvera barge. Once moved to a ship, the crew tested a sample of the fuel to find the tag.

According to the participants, the test took under two minutes and found the tag in a tiny concentration of two parts per billion. The crew were able to confirm the fuel’s origin and properties. This trial comes at a crucial time since new rules limiting the sulphur content of fuel are coming in next year. These International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards hope to encourage sustainable practices in the industry.

BunkerTrace CEO Marc Johnson explained: “As IMO 2020 approaches, we’re seeing fundamental changes to the dynamics of the bunkering market, which in turn creates uncertainty and risk: risk for owners, charterers, credit providers and financiers in the fuels they buy or fund; risk for insurers in establishing the risks they must manage; risk for operators and the fuels they burn; and for enforcers policing the fuels market. That’s why BunkerTrace exists.”

“From Maritime Blockchain Labs’ [MBL] first consortium in early 2018 to our successful pilot operation in Antwerp/Vlissingen some weeks ago, we’ve come a long way. However, there’s a long journey ahead and we’re inviting stakeholders throughout the industry to join us here,” Johnson added.

MBL was formed by BLOC and Lloyds Register last year, and in January trialed a sustainable biofuel solution with GoodFuels. The firms’ previous pilot claimed to be the first blockchain traced bunker delivery.

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