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Vessel congestion at Panama Canal boosts bunker fuel prices

Vessel congestion on both sides of the Panama Canal sent bunker fuel prices there still higher on Wednesday, market sources said.

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IFO 380 CST Panama was assessed at $256/mt ex-wharf, $2 higher than on Tuesday. In the last six consecutive trading sessions, RMG 380 prices in Panama have gained $25/mt, Platts data shows.

In late September and early October, a large number of tankers arrived in Panama to resupply fuel ahead of the Christmas season, market sources said, which has translated into long lines of vessels on both sides of the waterway.

"Those tankers that arrived to Panama at the end of September are already in transit, but the recent ones will have to wait more days to move," a Panama-based physical supplier said.

Sources have also pointed to maintenance work related to the expansion project at the canal as a reason for the congestion, which has caused transit delays of five to seven days for ships moving through it.

A total of 93 stationary vessels were tracked near Balboa, which is the port on the Pacific side, while 106 vessels were near Cristobal, according to cFlow, Platts trade-flow software.

--Maria Eugenia Garcia,
--Edited by Lisa Miller,