S&B ANALYSIS: IMO Report Shows Official Global 2020 Bunker Demand Breakdown; 5.5% Decline Overall

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Friday October 29, 2021

Global bunker demand dropped by about 5.5% last year as COVID-19 restrictions hit the shipping industry, according to the latest data from the International Maritime Organization.

The data comes from a report set before the upcoming meeting of the UN body's Marine Environment Protection Committee. The IMO now requires all vessels engaged in international trade over 5,000 mt in gross tonnage to report their fuel consumption via flag states.

The organisation says it has received data from 93.8% of these ships for 2020 totalling 203.1 million mt of reported demand, down from 213.1 million mt from 93% of the ships in 2019.

Extrapolating for the missing data, this would imply international bunker demand at 216.4 million mt for 2020, down by 5.5% on the year.

However, as BLUE's Adrian Tolson pointed out earlier this year, the remaining volumes from ships smaller than the size limit or those involved in domestic shipping may be significant, so the total global bunker demand including these figures may still be around 250 million mt.

The demand drop indicated by the latest official IMO data is in line with the 6.3% drop indicated by the market demand surveys conducted by Ship & Bunker and BLUE Insight of volumes at 17 leading bunkering locations.

Those ports account for some 134 million mt of demand in 2020, or around 63% of current global demand. As shown in the market survey, demand change at individual ports has varied considerably.

The slight difference between the official IMO global figure and the S&B market survey figure may indicate demand decline across the primary ports during 2020 was slightly greater than elsewhere.

Breakdown by Product

Fuel oil sales dropped by 7.2% on the year to 165.4 million mt, diesel and gasoil gained 5.7% to 25.5 million mt and LNG jumped by 14.2% to 12 million mt, according to the data in IMO's latest report.

Other fuel sales -- taking in ethanol, LPG, methanol and other fuels -- totalled 104,744 mt; an impressive increase of 80.1% y-o-y but a still a tiny percentage of the overall total.

Biofuel blends with conventional bunkers appear to have been grouped into the fuel oil sales category.

That left fuel oil with a 81.1% share of the market by mass in 2020, down from 83.7% the previous year, while diesel and gasoil's share rose to 12.6% in 2020 from 11.3% in 2019.

Breakdown by Shipping Segment

The IMO also breaks the data down by shipping segment, showing the different fates of the various vessel types during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Container ships topped the list with 56.9 million mt of bunker demand, down by 4.6% on the year. Bulkers saw a 0.9% gain to 55.3 million mt, while tankers gained 2.9% to 44.1 million mt.

Passenger ships saw the biggest fall, losing 58.6% to 329,266 mt, while demand from cruise ships sank by 53.5% to 3.1 million mt. Cruise ships took a 1.5% share of the global bunker market last year, down from 3.1% in 2019.