- We are approaching 01/01/20 where ships should use low sulfur (Sox) fuel which will not exceed 0.50%. Can it be problematic to use it? eg on the engines of ships?
Yes there can be various problems with the new compliant fuel. We are moving into unchartered waters and just the fear of the unknown determines a negative effect. I hope that most of us can realize to remove the fears and begin actions thru picking a supplier to work with so that he has the support he needs to purchase the lot of fuel required from the refinery and learn to streamline it all. There is no one standard specification yet and we have to improvise. The technical directors have a load now. But also the buyers have a big responsibility to understand better the bunker industry dynamic. How the suppliers too are going thru the same pressures and uncertainties as the shipping industry. Physical suppliers are ship owners too and they have logistics and ship operations concerns too.
- What is its availability?
The IMO compliant fuel has been sold since March 2019 in Singapore and so far specs are good. We must remove all that fear and be ready for the challenges. At this period the 0.50% VLSFO is available in the following ports :
The prices fluctuate daily and even during the day. There are several variables a bunker sales person takes into consideration before offering the bunker price. The first consideration and most critical is the paying account’s reputation for paying within the agreed terms, then comes the crude oil futures prices, then the demand & supply of fuel and/or barge, then the vessel’s reputation, volume, delivery method, surveyor on board, and day and time of inquiry. There are only 2 or 3 ports in the world that offer a daily fixed price list.
- As things have shown so far, the new fuel will be more expensive.
Port Bunker Price Differentials
- What does this mean for the shipowner and in particular will he be able to have the appropriate credit he has had so far?
The fuel invoice will be higher 20% in some cases and somewhere maybe 50% for a while till all settles. Already, 0.50% VLSFO is traded on the stock exchanges. All stakeholders or participants in the supply value chain besides the buyer (shipping companies) will be affected – it is a domino effect. The difficulty is in an already cash depleted beat up system where banks are loaning and insurance firms are backing at a cost, these increases will show up in the new prices. There will be finance costs added to the wholesale price.
- Will oil traders in this new era upgrade their role?
Well, yes, they already have secured financing for the increases. It is like a chess game – everyone is lining up the pieces.
- Will they control the game more?
I am not sure who is controlling the game. What I do know is that it is a game and traders will reap rewards as they will decide who will get what credit lines.
- What is the role of the bunker broker since 01/01/20?
The need for a bunker broker will diminish as the trader’s benefits increase, unless he or she has the network and experience to add value and to ensure a smoother transition to Jan 1st and thereafter offer the necessary 24/7 365 days support. The buyers will be so busy then, they will need brokers to help out. Everyone will be so busy – they already are busy now reading up on this new adventure of compliance in 2020 and planning, preparing, training, educating, implementing and then analyzing and benchmarking, in order to move out of the transition phase. I believe we will see more outsourced bunker buying service providers and digital on line systems’ buying which can be more cost effective as they streamline the processes and give back to the buyer the time/energy factor necessary to focus on the running of ships which is really what it is all about.