Maersk is one of the world's largest consumers of bunker fuel. Image Credit: Ship & Bunker
AP Moller-Maersk, the world's second-largest shipping company and a mainstay of the global bunker market, is heading for its lowest bunker consumption figures in seven years in 2023 as it improves the fuel efficiency of its fleet and the boxship market weakens.
The firm consumed a total of 2.481 million mt of marine fuel in the third quarter, it said in a results statement on Friday, down by 7.5% from the same period a year earlier.
Annualising the firm's figures for the first nine months of 2023, Maersk is heading for a total this year of 9.767 million mt, down by 7.7% from 2022 and the lowest annual total since 2016.
Maersk represents about 4.9% of total global bunker demand, based on 2021 figures.
Fuel efficiency is a large part of the picture.
Fuel efficiency is a large part of the picture, with Maersk engaging in slow steaming as well as installing energy-efficiency systems on parts of its fleet. The IMO's carbon intensity indicator regulation and the EU's emissions trading system for shipping are likely to prompt more of this behaviour across the shipping industry in the coming years as shipping companies seek to cut fuel consumption to lower emissions.
Maersk consumed an average of 36.2 g of marine fuel per TEU per nautical mile in the third quarter, compared to the 2022 average of of 41.9 g/TEU*NM, 41.4 g/TEU*NM in 2021, 40.9 g/TEU*NM in 2020 and 41.2 g/TEU*NM in 2019.
Another part of the picture will be the overall weakness in the global container market after abnormal strength in the past few years. Maersk's carried volumes totalled 8.796 million FFE in the first nine months of the year, down by 3.5% on the year.
The lower demand figures from Maersk highlight the long-term downward pressures on conventional bunker demand as ships install fuel-efficiency systems and switch to alternative fuels. In an interview with Ship & Bunker earlier this year, Bunker Holding CEO Keld Demant raised the idea that we may have already reached the peak in conventional bunker demand, with a decline to be expected over the coming years.