S&B MARKET SURVEY: Weaker Q4 Prompts 2.1% Global Bunker Hub Demand Drop in 2022

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Thursday March 30, 2023
  • Full Year Volumes at the hubs fell 2.1% in 2022 vs 2021
  • 0.5% average decline in Q4 2022 vs Q4 2021
  • Q4 volumes see 2.8% gain from Q3 2022
  • Weakness in ports focused on container market
  • Read the full report here: shipandbunker.com/bi/bunker-volumes

Demand at key marine fuel hubs slipped on a yearly basis but gained on the quarter in the last three months of 2022, according to the latest market survey of bunker sales volumes in 17 leading global locations, leaving the year's total sales below 2021's level.

As in previous quarters, Ship & Bunker and consultancy 2050 Marine Energy surveyed bunker market participants around the world alongside official data where available and found an average drop of 0.5% in volumes in the fourth quarter from the same period of 2021. The year-on-year decline compares with a 1.1% year-on-year drop in the third quarter of 2022. Q4 volumes sequentially were 2.8% higher than in Q3 2022.

That left demand at the 17 hubs overall at 135.6 million mt last year, down by 2.1% on the year. The figure amounts to about 60% of the global demand total in 2021 shown by official IMO data.

"As we close with the Q4 data inputs for 2022 there doesn't appear to be quite the level of bunker demand destruction we were expecting for the year -  a small overall demand drop in 2022 but not massive. Some signifcant volume changes continued in supply locations impacted by the war in Ukraine and the reemergence of the Chinese economy post covid," said 2050 Marine Energy's Adrian Tolson.

"Overall it seemed Q4 and the balance of 2022 was not great for the container dominated ports – although there are exceptions to this. Ports with a customer base from bulk, tanker and cruise fleets seemed to gain reflecting major improvements in those shipping sectors. Altered trading patterns now more firmly entrenched by wider sanction regimes will bring further shifts in demand in 2023.

"Given current efforts to minimize fuel consumption from a cost and emission footprint point of view it is not hard to see the bunker market at peak or close to peak demand – most certainly from a traditional fossil fuel point of view – but low energy density from future alternatives will ultimately see overall metric tons supplied continuing to grow."

Ukraine and Containers Dominate Market Sentiment

Throughout the year, conversations Ship & Bunker had with market participants circled around the impact of the war in Ukraine and the decline in the container market.

The war came as a profound shock to the market, prompting an almost overnight rearrangement of marine fuel tradeflows as the West sought to shun Russian oil. The resulting price volatility also drove margins to much higher levels than had been seen over the previous two years.

But the decline in the container market from the second half of 2022 onwards saw the bunker industry's largest category of customer significantly reduce demand expectations. Market sources in some parts of the world reported demand from the container segment as being down by as much as 20% towards the end of 2022.

"2022 was, in many ways, an extremely dramatic year," Carsten Ladekjaer, CEO of Glander International Bunkering, told Ship & Bunker by email.

"We witnessed the highest price volatility in decades.

"The hike in oil prices led to a credit squeeze in bunker markets around the world.

"Thankfully, freight markets overall were very healthy, so demand for credit was largely met, albeit at market premiums.

"As volatility eased off going into Q4 with lower oil prices and as container demand declined simultaneously, the market moved toward more balanced conditions."

Jesper Christensen, managing partner of trading firm BlackCoral Energy, had a positive take on the market.

"We found the 2022 volumes surprisingly high compared to what one could expect at the end of February 2022," he said.

"Significant cargo had to find alternative ways to the clients, which helped on demand, but Q4 saw a decline in container and bulk.

"The Russia-Ukraine crises and a general decrease in demand around the Black Sea and the Mediterranean had a significant impact for smaller general cargo vessels and up to larger bulkers.

"For the small- to medium-sized suppliers and bunker traders this was not likely to make a big dent in the 2022 volumes because we would seek towards the more buoyant markets, but for the biggest players who cover almost everything, it would be difficult to find this missing volume elsewhere."


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. Data is sourced from a combination of market participants and official records.

The full breakdown of the survey results including sales volumes in each bunkering region for Q4 2022 and 2021 is available for subscribers by clicking here.