• 6.3% average gain from Q2 2020
• 0.2% decline from Q1 2021
• Strong yearly gains for ports with container traffic
• Read the full report here: https://shipandbunker.com/bi/bunker-volumes
Demand at key marine fuel hubs jumped by 6.3% in the second quarter of 2021 from the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic a year earlier, but slipped marginally from the levels seen at the start of 2021, according to the latest market survey of bunker sales volumes in 17 leading global locations.
As in previous quarters, Ship & Bunker in conjunction with consultancy BLUE Insight surveyed bunker market participants around the world alongside official data where available and found an average jump of 6.3% in volumes in the second quarter from the same period of 2020. The year-on-year rise compares with a 4.7% year-on-year fall from the IMO 2020 peak in the first quarter, and Q2 volumes sequentially were 0.2% lower than in Q1 2021.
"This quarter's figures reflect what we have all been hearing about shipping," Adrian Tolson, director of BLUE Insight, told Ship & Bunker.
Overall, Q2 2021 was characterised by intense competition across all markets.
"We have all seen pictures of idle container ships in major ports, but bunker volumes have actually grown mainly because of increased consumption as ships have been speeding up to reach the next destination and get in line to discharge containers.
"Bulk shipping charter rates have been making headlines; some of this has to do with a shortage of tonnage due to a significant percentage of the fleet being tied up waiting to discharge, but those ports with bulk raw material activity have seen better bunker demand.
"Tankers reflect the still depressed global refining activity, and those ports that have large amounts of tankers are not seeing their bunker demand return."
Recovering From COVID-19
Bunker demand is rising from the lows seen at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, when shipping activity was curtailed and the bunker market was coming off from the abnormally high trading activity seen in the IMO 2020 transition the previous quarter. But some markets have started to slow again over renewed concerns over lockdown measures in Asia.
"Overall, Q2 2021 was characterised by intense competition across all markets," a spokesman for bunker supplier Monjasa told Ship & Bunker by email.
"However, looking at the numbers, Monjasa experienced increasing volumes during Q2 2021 compared to same period last year.
"In particular, the demand for our services in the Middle East, the Americas and Asia has been developing above expectations."
Demand varied across the shipping segments. The container market is still running at essentially full capacity with current abnormally high freight rates, although its bunker needs have largely not changed since the first quarter. Bulker demand has increased sharply since the spring, while tanker demand has cooled. The cruise industry has finally restarted its activities, but its demand remains significantly below pre-COVID levels.
As with the previous surveys the areas covered by the survey are Singapore, the Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) hub, Fujairah, the US Gulf, South Korea, Russia, the Gibraltar Strait, Hong Kong, Panama, Zhoushan, Japan, New York, West Africa, South Africa, the Canary Islands, Los Angeles/Long Beach and Turkey.
Together these areas saw just under 134 million mt of demand in 2020, meaning they cover more than 60% of current global demand.
The full breakdown of the survey results including sales volumes in each bunkering region for Q1 2021 and 2020 is available for subscribers by clicking here.
Return of Smaller Ports?
Consolidation was the biggest factor in the market last year, with buyers tending to crowd around the largest hubs because of uncertainty over the IMO 2020 transition and the COVID-19 pandemic.
There may be some early signs of that dynamic reversing now, with Singapore's 5% Q2 year-on-year gain underperforming the average 6.3% rise seen in the survey. But market sources report that the increased market share taken by the hubs since the start of 2020 is unlikely to be unwound fully any time soon.
Further Demand Growth Remains Uncertain
It remains to be seen how much further the recovery from COVID-19 will take growth in bunker market volumes. Market sources are less than optimistic about a return to pre-COVID demand levels in the near future, with fuel-efficiency measures now registering a significant downward pressure on shipping firms' purchases. But year-on-year demand rises from 2020's levels are still likely in the third and fourth quarters of this year.