High sulfur fuel oil bunker delivery lead times have blown out further to at least 6-12 days in October from the usual 4-6 days amid limited availability, market sources said Oct. 21.
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"Bunker suppliers are already facing difficulties finding available HSFO cargoes to meet buyers' requirements in terms of vessel schedule, price and quantity. Hence, sales dropped significantly in September and are likely to follow in October," a bunker supplier said.
Congestion at Straits terminals following a COVID-19 outbreak at Universal Terminal in early October has further tightened barge availability.
"Despite premiums [of Singapore-delivered 380 CST HSFO] coming off, the spot market has been very quiet lately with only few inquiries seen as market participants could not supply," a Singapore-based bunker supplier said.
Sales of 380 CST HSFO fell 7.1% month on month to a one-year low of 908,900 mt in September, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore preliminary data showed. Sales were last lower in September 2020 at 876,000 mt, the MPA data showed.
While tightness in Singapore HSFO inventories has been easing due to slowing demand for power generation in the Middle East, supply for bunker fuel remains relatively tight and premiums are averaging at a year-to-date high in October, traders said.
The premium for Singapore-delivered 380 CST HSFO over the benchmark FOB Singapore 380 CST HSFO cargo assessment has averaged $19.88/mt to date in October, compared with $14.33/mt in the third quarter and $8.09/mt in Q2, Platts data showed.
"In a bid to secure supplies, shipowners are now more likely to maintain demand for term supply of Singapore-delivered 380 CST HSFO in Q4 amid limited spot availability," a shipping company source said.
A second bunker supplier said: "Since September, some spot inquiries for delivered HSFO have been turned down due to a mismatch between the bunker delivery period and the receiving vessel's' arrival schedule, so shipowners have skipped Singapore for bunkering calls altogether."
The number of vessels calling at Singapore ports for bunkering fell 10.3% year on year to a multi-year low of 3,098 in September, and was down 2.9% from August, MPA preliminary data showed.
The tight availability of 380 CST HSFO in September prompted some bunker suppliers to source 500 CST HSFO instead, industry sources said.
As a result, 500 CST HSFO bunker sales reached a multi-month high of 87,300 mt in September, up 14.6% from August and surpassed only by sales in May 2020 at 100,100 mt, the MPA preliminary data showed.