Claims of bunkering malpractices at Noble Group are not borne out, MPA says

SINGAPORE - The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) has rejected claims by the Iceberg Research blog that Noble Group was involved in "illegal activities" as part of its commercial practices in Singapore.

Iceberg Research said in its third report published on Saturday that it had previously acted as whistleblower on Noble.

In 2013, a member of Iceberg reported Noble's commercial practices in Singapore to the MPA, it said, adding that "Noble had been associated with some less than reputable local companies".

The MPA then wrote that the information "validates some of our observations" and the decision was taken not to renew Noble's bunkering license, Iceberg had said.

Responding to queries from trade publication Seatrade Global, an MPA spokesman said its investigation of Noble Resources International Pte Ltd (NRIPL) at the time "did not find any malpractices".

Rather, NRIPL's licence was not renewed in Sept 2013 due to it not fulfilling licensing obligations such as delivered volumes, and was not related to a breach of regulations, it said.

Noble closed its bunkering business in Singapore that year.

MPA also dismissed further allegations by Iceberg Research that malpractice had continued after the bunkering business was closed down, and that it was linked to the collapse of OW Bunker in November last year.

OW Bunker, the world's biggest bunker supplier and Denmark's second-biggest listed company by revenue, filed for bankruptcy in November last year, blaming fraud by two senior employees at a Singapore-based unit, Dynamic Oil Trading.

"The assertion by Iceberg Research that 'Had the MPA acted on the information sent to them, this high profile bankruptcy leaving hundreds of millions due to creditors unpaid could certainly have been avoided' is also untrue," the spokesman told Seatrade Global.

"No relevant information about OW Bunker, including from Iceberg Research, was furnished to the Singapore authorities before OW Bunker's bankruptcy."

Noble said on Monday it has started legal proceedings in the Hong Kong High Court against its former credit analyst Arnaud Vagner, the person it identified as the mastermind of Iceberg Research.