Repost: Record-high and continuously-rising outright bunker prices are deterring ship owners from buying on the spot market in Singapore, according to several market participants.
The price of delivered very-low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) in Singapore has averaged $1,117/t so far this month, up by 19pc from its average in May, according to Argus data.
Bunker prices have rallied strongly in line with Brent crude prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March, with sanctions resulting in a severe tightening of crude and product supplies, and an ongoing change in trade flows.
Shipowners are reducing the quantity of fuel purchased in the spot market as a result, hoping for flat prices to cool down. But this is unlikely, given tightening balances in the face of geopolitical uncertainty.
“Spot demand has definitely been poor,” said one local trader.
“We can feel the impact of high flat prices weighing on average demand,” remarked a local supplier.
Argus has reported an average of eight spot bunkers deals per day so far this month, down from 10 in May.
Shipowners that purchase bunker fuel based on contracts are heard to have been maximising contract liftings. But owners of vessels that tramp — which do not have a fixed schedule, itinerary or ports of call — need to buy fuel on the spot market regardless of price.
“We have very few options here – when ships need bunkers, I need to buy, timing is everything,” said one buyer.
“Singapore is very expensive these days and owners are trying to avoid purchasing VLSFO unless they have no other choice, and so many enquiries are much smaller than you would usually expect,” remarked a London-based broker.
The higher outright prices also mean that larger cargoes can lead to some owners having issues with outsized credit exposure.
Physical suppliers, meanwhile, are struggling with increasing operating costs, which are depressing their profit margins.
Bunker barges that supply fuel to ships burn low-sulphur marine gasoil (LSMGO). LSMGO prices have risen even more than VLSFO given a lack of availabilities of middle distillates.
“Launch boat operators have been increasing their fuel surcharge and launch fees,” said one local gasoil trader.
It is not only Singapore where bunker prices are high, with tight availabilities seen across other ports in Asia, such as South Korea, Japan and China.
VLSFO prices in Fujairah have traded at a discount of up to $107.50/t to Singapore since the middle of May, but that discount is now narrowing again as local supplier Uniper is heard to be tight on product.
Despite slowing spot demand in Singapore, the city state’s consumption in May rebounded to over 4mn t, according to data from the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA).
Marine Online Media Team
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact the author for this article.