S&B ANALYSIS: Singapore Bunker Volumes Slip to Lowest Since June 2020

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Monday June 14, 2021

Bunker demand in Singapore, the world's largest marine fuels hub, declined on a monthly basis to the lowest level in 11 months in May, while advancing slightly from the level seen in May 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

The city-state's total demand reached 4.1 million mt in May, according to preliminary data from the Maritime and Port Authority, down by 4.3% from the previous month and up by 3.7% from May 2020.

VLSFO sales slipped by 1.3% on the month to 2.8 million mt, HSFO sank by 9.7% to 984,600 mt, distillates lost 6% to 311,100 mt and other fuels dropped to zero. HSFO's share of the total was 24.1%, down from 25.6% 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.

Gaining From COVID Slump

The yearly gain partly reflects the slip in demand seen in at the start of the COVID-19 crisis last year; May 2020's level was 4.6% lower than April 2020. Demand a year ago may also have been suppressed by shipping companies working through the VLSFO stockpiles they had built up during the IMO 2020 transition, rather than taking on new purchases.

There were 3,350 calls for bunkers in May, 3.1% lower than the level seen a month earlier. That left the average stem size last month at about 1,216 mt, compared with the 12-month average of 1,229 mt.

Tankers Advancing

The total of gross tonnage visiting Singapore jumped by 6.6% on the year to 238 million mt. Tankers led the recovery, gaining 7 million mt, and passenger vessels also saw a strong 5.7 million mt rise, while the gain was pared by a 2.9 million mt drop in container ships and a 1.9 million mt decline for bulkers.

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.