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Marinko Ukropina, SGS Group Managing Director For Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina And Montenegro

Immeasurable Contribution To Combating The Grey Economy

SGS is the world’s leading company in the provision of inspection, verification, testing and certification services. It operates as a global leader and innovator, and is recognised by the world’s leading companies, financial corporations and international institutions

Speaking in this interview for CorD Magazine, Marinko Ukropina, SGS MD for the region, reveals that the company has – through an investment of 2.4 million euros – equipped a modern laboratory for the purposes of monitoring fuel quality and successfully implementing acquired works, as well as expanding the scope of accreditation for new testing methods.

Many companies are engaged in inspection, verification, testing and certification services, but SGS is the world leader. Could you tell us more about SGS Group?

SGS Group operates under the framework of a network of more than 2,600 representative offices and laboratories and has 93,000 employees worldwide. SGS Beograd was founded in Serbia in August 2001 as a full member of this Group, which has spent more than 140 years building its reputation. SGS Beograd is this year commemorating 20 years of successful operations and significant results achieved in inspecting, testing, verifying and monitoring trade in goods and investments in the domains of agriculture, industry, mining, petrochemicals, trade in consumer goods and product certification.

We achieved great success with the introduction of the National Programme for Labelling Petroleum Derivatives back in February 2014. This programme represents the best example of how an independent and neutral company that operates in accordance with the highest ethical, business and technical standards and integrity can contribute to fulfilling the interests of all stakeholders.

SGS Beograd has already proved itself to be a reliable partner of the Serbian Government for seven years, as the leader of the consortium and a designated provider of services for the labelling of petroleum derivatives and monitoring of the quality of petroleum derivatives in the Republic of Serbia. This is the first anti-corruption pro gramme of its kind in the fight to combat the grey economy in Europe, and one of only 20 worldwide. The key objective is to use the marking of derivatives during production and upon import, as well as verifications at filling stations on the territory of Serbia, to ensure the successful monitoring of the legality of trade in petroleum products.

The national project for labelling petroleum products represents the most successful anti-corruption programme in the Republic of Serbia, which has also received high praise from officials of the European Union.

What have you achieved by monitoring the legality of trade in petroleum products?

The consumption of legal fuels in the Republic of Serbia has increased by more than 30%, while the grey economy has been reduced to less than 1%. The inflow of revenues into the budget of the Republic of Serbia from the collection of excise duties on petroleum products has increased by approximately 1,200 million euros. An increase in the consumption of petroleum products, resulting from an increase in GDP, also influenced this increased budget inflow.

Furthermore, with the fight against illegal additives to petroleum products, within the scope of the labelling and monitoring of petroleum products, we have contributed to the quality of fuels being at the level of EU standards.

From an ecological aspect, regular monitoring of the quality of petroleum products has ensured the protection of consumers, whilst also improving environmental protection.

The consumption of legal fuels in the Republic of Serbia has increased by more than 30%, while the grey economy has been reduced to less than 1%

Does everyone know about these results?

It is clear to us that the only ones who wouldn’t favour the labelling and monitoring project are those who’ve benefited massively from the illicit trade in fuel and have become rich at the expense of the state and citizens. The facts and results of the programme to date are quite sufficient as arguments that prove this claim. The programme provides the state, oil companies and consumers with direct and very significant benefits.

The previously cited data provide the best indicator of the programme’s positive results. We also mustn’t overlook the positive environmental impact that results from trade in high-quality fuels.

What is included in everything that’s been done since this programme began in 2014?

The programme is implemented in accordance with the Agreement signed with the Ministry of Mining and Energy, the Decree on the Labelling (Marking) of Petroleum Products and the Instruction Manual for the Labelling of Petroleum Products that was issued by SGS. Throughout the course of these seven years, more than 21 million tons of petroleum products have been marked and, in cooperation with the competent state authorities, verification of the concentration of markers has been carried out on more than 40,000 petroleum product samples.

In light of the planned advancement and automation of the fuel marking process, SGS has developed an automatic marker injection device (AMID) and proposed a comprehensive solution for the entire marking system. The implementation of this solution would prevent any form of physical interaction with the marker and would have a significant impact in terms of increasing the precision and accuracy of marking, thus contributing to further suppressing illegal activities and increasing budget revenues, on the basis of increased turnovers in legal trade flows, and environmental protection.

In our country, we often hear complaints that the quality of fuel in Serbia is worse than in neighbouring countries. Do those tales hold water?

In parallel with the Programme for Marking Petroleum Products, since 1st December, 2015, in accordance with the Decree on Monitoring the Quality of Petroleum Products and Biofuels, the implementation of the Programme for Monitoring the Quality of Petroleum Products in Serbia has also been underway. Apart from buying fuel from legal sources, citizens finally also have the opportunity to know what kind of quality the fuel they use has, because the monitoring of the quality of petroleum products has very clear objectives.

The aim is to continuously evaluate the quality of petroleum products and biofuels within the entire distribution chain, gaining insight into the state of the quality of petroleum products on the market and reacting accordingly, depending on the values of the monitored parameters.

In accordance with the Rulebook on the Content and Manner of Implementation of the Annual Programme of Monitoring Quality, 360 to 380 samples are tested on a monthly basis, or more than 4,000 samples annually. Reports on the results of testing are regularly submitted to the competent state authorities.

To conclude, could you explain to our readers the key to your more than successful operations?

Investing in equipment, people and the training of personnel is one of the keys and development goals of any company. SGS doesn’t lag behind in that sense, but rather leads the way.

We monitor the relevant requirements of quality standards and changes to them. Part of the investment is always directed towards monitoring changes, while we set aside part of the investment for the development of new methods that would be interesting to clients. We monitor trends and requirements that appear around the world and work to make it possible for them to be satisfied, because they will inevitably also come to the Serbian market.

Experience from around the world has shown us that the process of marking and monitoring is the most effective way of bringing order to the petroleum products market, and the Republic of Serbia, by following this trend in cooperation with SGS, has built trust both within our country and beyond its borders.

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