S&B ANALYSIS: Singapore September Bunker Sales Drop to 15-Month Low

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Wednesday October 13, 2021

Bunker demand in Singapore, the world's largest marine fuels hub, dropped to the lowest level in 15 months in September with the ongoing slowdown in shipping activity in Asia.

The city-state's total demand fell to 3.9 million mt in September, according to preliminary data from the Maritime and Port Authority, down by 6.7% from the same month a year earlier, by 3.4% from August 2021's level and the lowest monthly total since May 2020.

VLSFO sales fell by 3.7% on the month to 2.5 million mt, HSFO sank by 5.5% to 996,200 mt, distillates gained 13.2% to 358,500 mt and other fuels dropped to zero. HSFO's share of the total was 25.3%, down from 25.9% the previous month.

The niche LNG bunker market in Singapore is starting to grow this year, but has not yet been included in the official figures.

COVID-19 Recovery Falters

The yearly decline is from a period in 2020 when shipping activity in Asia was returning to normal after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic's impact. September 2020's sales level was the highest since March of that year. That recovery now appears to be faltering with renewed concerns about infection levels going into the winter.

There were 3,098 vessel calls for bunkers in September, 2.9% lower than the level seen a month earlier. That left the average stem size last month at about 1,270 mt, compared with the 12-month average of 1,250 mt.

Boxship Decline

The total gross tonnage visiting Singapore dropped by 8% on the year to 221 million mt. This decline was led by the container segment, which lost 12.4 million mt, and by a 10.7 million mt drop in bulker tonnage.

Miscellaneous ships saw the strongest growth, gaining 3.5 million mt, and passenger vessels also saw a strong 1.4 million mt rise. Tanker tonnage slipped by 906,000 mt on the year.

The mandatory mass flow meter systems used to measure all bunker deliveries in Singapore come with a +/-0.5% margin of error, a level considered more accurate than traditional measurement systems used at most other ports with the added benefit of all but eliminated volumetric malpractice.

Only licensed companies can supply bunkers in Singapore, and the MPA calculates sales based on the bunker delivery notes of those companies.