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Bunker market gets off to soft start in 2016

Bunker market gets off to soft start in 2016
Bunker fuel prices have gotten off to a soft start in 2016, offering continued relief for shipowners to substantially save on vessels’ operating cost in a sluggish shipping market.

The global benchmark Singapore 380 cst bunker grade was indicated at a price of $161.50 per metric tonne (pmt) on 26 January, down from the already low price of $186.50 pmt recorded on 4 January, according to data by Ship & Bunker.

So far this month, Singapore 380 cst prices have touched a low of $148 pmt on 20 January, before they rebounded to gain close to $40 in four trading days.

Compared to a year ago, bunker prices today are at around 44% discount from the price of $287 pmt seen on 26 January 2015, Ship & Bunker data showed.

The last time that Singapore 380 cst price dipped below $200 pmt was back on 31 December 2008 when it slumped to $198 pmt following the start of the global financial crisis.

Millions of dollars of savings are now on the table for ship operators with bunker fuel at today’s prices compared to the levels seen just before the market made a sharp downward correction in June 2015.

Take for example, a 10,000-teu containership burning 150 tonnes of fuel per day and running on normal speed would have spent $2.29m on bunker bill from a 43-day single-leg Asia-Europe voyage between Tokyo to Rotterdam, based on a bunker price of $355 pmt in June last year.

In comparison, the bunker price today of $161.50 pmt would translate to a bunker bill of $1.04m for the same voyage – a saving of $1.25m from just one ship.

However, the low oil price environment has not translated to aggressive fuel purchases, as cost-cutting and maximising capacity are still the main focus for ship operators, according to Singapore-based bunker traders spoken to by Seatrade Maritime News.

Statistics from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), however, showed that Singapore’s bunker sales volume have risen by 6.5% year-on-year to 45.16m metric tonnes in 2015.

Traders said sales volumes have increasingly been concentrated in the hands of the leading fuel sellers such as oil majors and the larger homegrown physical suppliers.