Bunker demand in Singapore, the world's largest marine fuels hub, saw a modest gain on a yearly basis in September but slipped on a monthly basis to the lowest level in three months.
The city-state's total demand reached 4 million mt in September, according to preliminary data from the Maritime and Port Authority. The total was up by 0.8% from the same month a year earlier, but down by 3.6% from August's level and the lowest monthly total since June.
The total had slipped by 0.1% on a monthly basis in August.
Singapore's total for Q3 came to 12.2 million mt, the highest level since Q4 2021.
VLSFO sales slipped by 1.5% on the month to 2.5 million mt in September, HSFO sank by 9.3% to 1.1 million mt, distillates fell by 1.8% to 335,700 mt and other fuels rose by 31.3% to 42,800 mt.
HSFO's share of the total was 28.1%, up from 25.3% the same month a year earlier.
The niche LNG bunker market in Singapore continues to grow, after seeing total sales of 50,000 mt last year, but LNG sales are not yet being included in the monthly figures. Biofuel blend sales are also being carried out -- reaching a total of about 70,000 mt so far this year -- but are not included in the official data.
Strong Start to Second Half
September's total took Q3 to the highest quarterly level since the fourth quarter of 2021, with the market improving after persistent weakness earlier on in 2022. Singapore's first-half total was the lowest since the first half of 2015, undermined by COVID lockdown effects in Asia, the HSFO contamination problem in February and March and supply issues caused by the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
But with renewed concerns over COVID-19 in Asia this month and a sharp drop in container freight rates, a contraction looks likely in the fourth quarter.
There were 3,155 vessel calls for bunkers in September, 1.8% lower than the level seen a month earlier and the least since June. That left the average stem size last month at about 1,258 mt, compared with the 12-month average of 1,286 mt.
Singapore's average VLSFO price in September was $691/mt, according to Ship & Bunker prices, down by 11% from August's level but up by 24.5% from the level seen a year earlier. Ship & Bunker's G20 Index of average VLSFO prices at 20 leading bunkering ports lost 9.8% on the month and gained 32.4% on the year to $742.50/mt in September.
Boxship Visits Climb
The total gross tonnage visiting Singapore jumped by 4.6% on the year to 231.4 million mt. This advance was led by the container segment, where calls by gross tonnage gained 5.1 million mt. Tanker tonnage calls rose by 2.7 million mt, while bulkers rose by 2.6 million mt.
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.