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Unsung Heroes: The Bunker Credit Manager

In the vibrant and ever-evolving marine fuels market, a myriad of roles contribute to the seamless operation and success of the industry. However, amidst the bustling activity and the spotlight often shining on traders and suppliers, there lies an unsung hero whose efforts are pivotal yet frequently overlooked: the Bunker Credit Manager. As a former credit manager myself, I wanted to shed some light on this critically important, but often underappreciated role.

Credit managers in the bunkering sector embody the front line of financial prudence and risk management. Their job is no small feat; it requires a blend of competence, profound industry knowledge, an extensive network, an acute sense of intuition, and the ability to decipher truth from deceit. In addition to all this, the truly effective maritime credit manager needs to be a politician that is adept at navigating interactions with the occasionally temperamental characters in the commercial department who may view credit control as an obstacle to their business ambitions.  I once heard a senior bunker trader refer to his credit manager as the “...head of the department that likes to say No....”. Charming.

The role of a credit manager is intrinsically imprecise. Much of their decision-making is anchored in experience, gut feeling, and trust. These elements are invaluable, yet they introduce a degree of subjectivity that makes the role exceptionally challenging. Despite their expertise and cautious diligence, black swan events—unpredictable or unforeseen occurrences with potentially severe consequences—underscore the inherent risks and limitations of relying solely on human judgment.  I have deliberately built Shipergy to embrace the opportunities of AI, but I can’t yet think of an application for this disruptive technology within this crucial task.  Could a machine be mandated to make a multi-million dollar credit decision on a single ship company in the Marshall Islands that has a "good" reputation but zero financial disclosure ?  I don’t think so.

My personal journey as a credit manager was marked by the tension between the necessity of making tough, often conservative decisions, and the innate desire to support business growth and opportunities. The challenge of saying "no," coupled with the imprecision of risk assessment, eventually led me to leave the role [and I wanted to earn more money!]. Yet, this experience has given me a profound appreciation and respect for the delicate balance credit managers must strike between safeguarding the company's interests and enabling it to thrive in a competitive landscape.unsunghero

Credit managers navigate a precarious position. In years when a company flourishes, they might receive commendation, albeit overshadowed by the more visible rewards reaped by the commercial team. Conversely, in less prosperous times, they often find themselves in the line of fire, criticized for being overly cautious or blamed for any perceived missteps in risk assessment. This dichotomy underscores the thankless nature of their role and the intense scrutiny under which they operate.

Adding to the complexity is the dynamic regulatory and sanctions landscape, which has evolved significantly over the past decade. With market volatility as the norm, credit managers not only have to manage financial risk but also navigate the intricacies of compliance. In all but the largest organizations, the responsibility of ensuring adherence to a growing web of international sanctions and regulations frequently falls on their shoulders. This was not something that they were trained for, but they take on this burden without complaint. This dual burden of credit and compliance management amplifies the pressure and demands of an already challenging role.

The marine fuels industry is a testament to innovation and adaptation, driven by technological advancements and shifting market dynamics. However, the core of its success lies in the human element—individuals like credit managers, whose expertise, intuition, and dedication ensure the financial stability and integrity of operations. Their role is crucial in managing the delicate balance between risk and opportunity, and their contributions are foundational to the industry's resilience and growth.

As we navigate the complexities of the marine fuels market, let us not forget to acknowledge and appreciate the silent guardians of financial prudence and risk management. The next time you cross paths with your credit manager, don't forget to show your gratitude.  Invite them for a beer or coffee - they probably deserve it.

In conclusion, credit managers may not always stand in the limelight, but their strategic foresight, unwavering commitment, and meticulous attention to detail are indispensable to the marine fuels market. As we continue to face the challenges and seize the opportunities of a rapidly developing industry, let's remember the crucial role these professionals play in steering our companies toward sustainable growth and stability. Here's to the unsung heroes of the marine fuels market—the credit managers—whose resilience, expertise, and dedication keep the wheels of commerce turning smoothly.