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HomeGeneralA day in the life of a bunker barge operator

A day in the life of a bunker barge operator

day in the life of bunker bargeBunkers are a critical component of ship operations and one of the most cost intensive..

Bunkering services and service providers such as a bunker barge operator play a crucial role in maritime shipping worldwide..

All major ports around the world offer this as part of their service suite, to attract more vessels, increase efficiency, increase revenue and create local employment..

In South Africa, in-port bunkering service offers safe and convenient bunkering, as it is conducted within the harbour, which is protected from adverse weather and with the supervision of the South Africa’s state-owned port operator Transnet..

While Transnet ensures that the bunker operator has all necessary licenses, South African Maritime Safety Authority ensures that the crew on board are suitably qualified, the vessel is seaworthy, as well as cargo-worthy and that marine pollution is minimised..

Linsen Nambi Bunker Services fulfils the bunkering needs of the shipping traffic in South Africa through their bunker barge operations..

We caught up with Durand Naidoo, MD of Linsen Nambi who explained what a day in the life of a bunker barge operator looks like..


Bunker barge operations are a rolling 24/7/365 operation, crew work a quad shift system, of 12-hour shifts. The shift structure ensures that seafarers work on average 14 days in a month and are provided with sufficient rest periods.

The morning shift starts with a detailed handover between all Officers and Ratings, then once the handover is complete, the off going shift leaves the barge.

Morning toolbox talks takes place, where the Captains discuss the plan for the day including various aspects relating to operational safety and efficiency. The officers and crew then conduct morning rounds including gangway watches, stowaway searches, atmosphere checks, housekeeping activities etc.  All crew understand their role in the operation and get on with fulfilling their function.



Linsen Nambi Bunker Services load at Island View 10 in the Port of Durban and at Landing Wall 4 in the Port of Cape Town Harbour. The refined petroleum products loaded are Marine Fuel Oil (MFO) and Marine Gas Oil (MGO/ DMA).

The Captain will move the bunker vessel from its layby berth to the load berth and manoeuvre the vessel into position, while ensuring that the bunker hoses or loading arm is able to safely reach the loading manifold, then once in position, the crew secure the vessel using mooring lines.

This allows the Captain to shut down the engines and progress to the next phase of the operation.

The crew will connect the loading hose or assist the landside terminal loading staff with the hose connection at the bunker manifold.

An officer, in conjunction with terminal staff, will compete the predelivery safety checklist and loading plan, calculate the stop meter, agree sampling procedure and ensure all involved in the operation are aligned.

Then once connections are secure and the safety checks completed the Captain will request that the terminal representative cautiously commence loading operations. At the initial start-up, product flow into the correct tanks is confirmed and the integrity of the connection assessed. If all in order the rate is increased until the agreed pump rate is achieved.

All tank valves are controlled from the bunker vessel bridge and the Captain manages the operation from the bridge. Bunker Vessels’ are equipped with closed loading systems and monitor tank levels via radar tank gauging technology, called the Cargo Master System.

Data from the Cargo Master System is fed into a custom software application. The software does the calculations and produces the required documents and reports. The software also ensures that information is reliably stored, backed up and easily accessible.

The Captain will ensure that maximum tank levels are not exceeded and that the vessel maintains an even trim during the operation. The Captain will give the terminal repetitive notice when nearing the end or when topping off tanks occurs.

At this point the rate is gradually reduced and eventually stopped, then compressed air is used to blow whatever product is still in the line back into the bunker vessel tanks.

The Captain confirms that shore figures and product received by the barge are within tolerance. The loading advice is then signed, and the bunker vessel prepares for the delivery component of the operation.

a day in the life of bunker barge operator
Linsen Nambi Bunker Services vessel Fumana refueling the Queen Mary 2 at Durban Port


Discharging (Bunkering)

The Captain will sail the bunker vessel from the layby berth to wherever the customer vessel is docked in the harbour. The process is similar to loading, that being, the Captain will manoeuvre the bunker vessel into position, ensuring that the barge flow boom and hose can reach the customer ships manifold.

The Captain will also ensure that there is sufficient slack on the hose for both vessels to freely range with out placing undue stress on the hose on the connection.

The bunker vessel crew will secure moorings and winch the barge against the customer ship, then once the barge is in place and secure, the Captain will shut down the engines.

The deck crew will ensure that there is safe access between the barge and the customer vessel. They will board the customer ship, manoeuvre the boom and hose into position and connect the delivery hose to the ships manifold.

The bunker vessel Captain, Chief Officer and customer ship’s Engineering Representative will conduct all predelivery safety checks, agree on stop meter figures and commence discharge. The rate will be gradually increased until the agreed rate is achieved.

The rate is gradually decreased when topping off tanks occurs toward the end of the operation. Once the full bunkers quantity is delivered, the Captain shuts down the pumps and prints all delivery documents including Bunker Delivery Notes (BDN) and bunker vessel condition reports.

The lines are cleared into the customer ships tanks using compressed air and the hose disconnected thereafter. The bunker vessel Captain and the customer ship’s Chief Engineer are required to sign the BDN and confirm the bunkered quantity.

Once all documents are signed and the hoses are disconnected, the barge lets go lines and proceeds to the next delivery.

Thus, bunkering delivery exposes the seafarer to tanker operations at sea, while still providing the convenience of remaining in port and the not having to spend days away from family.

a day in the life of bunker barge operator


About Linsen Nambi Bunker Services

Linsen Nambi employs over 100 South Africans on three ships, all of which proudly fly the South African flag.

Durand Naidoo says the successes that Linsen Nambi has achieved so far is underpinned by :

  1. Sound cooperate governance, sound financial policies, ethical leadership, a desire to provide a reliable, safe and value-based service to the maritime industry.
  2. State of the art, purpose built bunker tankers with a reliance on technology to deliver value.
  3. Qualified, trained, experienced and committed work force.

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Hariesh Manaadiar
Hariesh Manaadiar
I am Hariesh Manaadiar, the Founder of Shipping and Freight Resource.. I have been in the dynamic shipping and freight industry for over three decades and have worked in several sectors.. I share my experiences and knowledge of the industry through this blog for those looking for help in the industry.. Stay subscribed for more free useful content about shipping, freight, maritime, logistics, supply chain and trade..


  1. Really it’s useful, I have been ex Shipping (NVOCC) marketing manager from DXB, I just joined…I would like to develop my knowledge again..thank you lot…Suresh Kumar, Kerala, India.


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