Singapore marine fuel sales drop in Sept as bunker calls hit 4-year low

Vessel arrivals at the Singapore hub for bunkers fell to 3,098 in September, the lowest since February 2018.
Vessel arrivals at the Singapore hub for bunkers fell to 3,098 in September, the lowest since February 2018.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Marine fuel sales in Singapore fell to a 15-month low of 3.94 million tonnes last month as the number of ships calling at the world's largest bunkering hub for bunkers sank to a near four-year low, official data showed on Monday (Oct 11).

The September volumes were down 7 per cent from last year and 3 per cent lower from August, the latest data from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) showed.

Vessel arrivals at the Singapore hub for bunkers fell to 3,098 last month, the lowest since February 2018.

Singapore is facing competition from China as the dominant marine fuel supplier in Asia, reported Bloomberg earlier in July.

This comes as China's marine fuel sales have almost doubled over the past five years, servicing ships headed for ports in nearby South Korea and Japan.

The bunkering sector is valued at more than US$30 billion (S$40.6 billion) in Asia.

Vessels loaded an average of 1,270 tonnes each of bunkers last month, down from a 16-month high of 1,276 tonnes in August, Reuters calculations showed. 

Competitive marine fuel pricing from suppliers in China, congestion at key global ports and soaring freight rates across some shipping segments contributed to Singapore’s lower bunkering traffic, trade sources said. 

“Super high freight across bulkers, gas carriers and containers means stopping over (in Singapore) for cheaper fuel doesn’t make sense when you lose a day in hire fees,” said a Singapore-based bunker trader. 

Robust demand for dry bulk commodities, particularly coal, and port bottlenecks propelled the Baltic Exchange’s main dry bulk sea freight index to more than 13-year highs last month and again in October.

Global container shipping problems related to post-Covid-19 logistics problems have intensified in the third quarter and show no sign of letting up. 

The lower bunker volumes were caused by a drop in sales of both low- and high-sulphur marine fuels.

Sales of bunkers with a maximum 0.5 per cent sulphur content totalled 2.94 million tonnes last month, the lowest since November 2019 before the International Maritime Organisations’ global sulphur cap came into effect at the beginning of January last year.

September sales volumes of low-sulphur fuels were down 10 per cent from last year and 2 per cent lower than August. 

High-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) sales were at 996,000 tonnes last month, up 7 per cent from last year but down 6 per cent from August volumes.

HSFO volumes represented 25.3 per cent of Singapore’s overall bunker sales in September, a four-month high. 

Still, Singapore’s bunkering sales totalled 37.34 million tonnes in the first nine months of the year, up 1 per cent from the same period in 2020.