S&B Analysis: Singapore Bunker Sales Gain 1.9% Month-on-Month in March

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Tuesday April 13, 2021

Bunker sales in Singapore posted a 1.9% monthly rally in March as volumes at the world's largest marine fuels hub continued to hold strong.

The city-state's total sales reached 4.2 million mt in March, according to preliminary data from the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA), comprising 2.83 million mt of VLSFO sales, 991,700 mt of HSFO sales, 349,600 mt of distillates, and 25,300 mt of other fuels.

The total was 1.9% higher than February's level and 2.8% lower than the 4.32 million mt reached in March 2020.

That took Singapore's first-quarter total to 12.8 million mt, slightly ahead of the 12.7 million mt sold in Q1 2020.

This is particularly impressive given the boost to sales received in Q1 last year thanks to the introduction of the IMO 2020 rule, although March 2020's volumes level may have been slightly depressed as shipping companies started to use the VLSFO stockpiles they built up before the IMO 2020 transition rather than making new purchases.

There were 3,461 calls for bunkers in March 2021, 2.7% lower than the 3,557 seen in the month a year earlier but a total well in line with the trailing 12 month average of 3,379 calls per month.

The average stem size for March 2021 was 1,213 mt, a little under the 12 month average of 1232 mt.

Bulker Visits Lead Decline in Traffic

The number of ships calling at Singapore for bunkers in March declined by 2.7% on the year to 3,461 vessels. That decline came with an overall drop in traffic visiting Singapore.

Bulkers were the largest shipping segment driving a year-on-year decline in gross tonnage visiting the city-state in March, losing 5.76 million mt. Tanker traffic declined by 1.21 million mt, while containers lost 5.38 million mt.

Passenger vessels climbed on the year, gaining 4.26 million mt.

Bunker Hubs Continue to Dominate

Singapore's sales have benefited from a consolidation of bunker demand at the world's largest hubs during the IMO 2020 transition and the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore's rise last year -- gaining by 5%, its biggest yearly advance since 2016 -- made it one of the best-performing hubs, and compared with a rise measured in metric tonnes of 2.8% at Rotterdam, and a drop of 11.4% for Panama.

Volumes at some ports were reported to be down by as much as 75% at some points in 2020.

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.