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Panama bunker sales down in 2023 due to Canal restrictions.

Photo: Monjasa Monjasa Supplier bunker tanker
A total of 4.9 million metric tonnes (mt) of bunker were sold in Panama last year, down 6.4% from the 5.24 million mt recorded in 2022, according to preliminary data released by the Panama Maritime Authority.

The severe El Nino drought has limited the number of vessels that can transit the Panama Canal. This has led some operators to look for alternative routes to transit between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, such as sailing through the Strait of Magellan or Cape Horn or, in the case of Maersk, using rail to transport cargo along the 80 kms from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (and vice versa) of Panama.

The decline in bunker sales in Panama last year was reflected in a decrease of 5.6% in the number of vessels taking bunkers. Some 7,144 vessels - an average of 595 per month - bunkered in Panama in 2023, compared to 7,560, or 630 per month, in 2022.

All bunker grades experienced year-on-year declines in sales. Sales of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) fell by 2.7%, and of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) fell by 14.7%, while sales of low-sulphur MGO and MGO fell by 13.6% and 5%, respectively.

The world's largest bunker hub, Singapore, recorded a record 51.82 million mt of bunker sales in 2023.