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Rotterdam bunker fuel premium to Rotterdam barges strengthens on congestion, tight supply

London — The premium of delivered bunker fuel at the bunkering hub of Rotterdam over 3.5% FOB Rotterdam barges has been elevated in recent weeks on tight availability and congestion at the port.

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The premium for November averaged $12/mt in the period October 22-November 8, compared with a $5/mt average premium over the first 10 months of 2018.

The premium is also strong compared with last year, with the spread averaging $6/mt in the same period.

Both the high sulfur fuel oil and delivered bunker fuel markets are suffering from tight availability at the Dutch port as a result of an active arbitrage to the East. This looks set to persist into December and the latest vessel on subjects to draw around 270,000 mt of fuel oil from Rotterdam was Neptun, a VLCC, expected to load fuel oil around December 7.

Additionally, Rotterdam availability has been under further strain from last week's launch of Exxon's delayed coker at the 320,000 b/d Antwerp refinery, which the company confirmed on October 31. This has tightened the local Antwerp bunker market and required the Rotterdam market to make up the shortfall, sources said.

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Traders have estimated that the loss of ExxonMobil's fuel oil exports removes 200,000 mt/month from the Antwerp bunker market.

Pressure has mounted on the delivered bunker market, with congestion at the loading racks of the refineries.

"[There are] long waiting times at the refineries to load barges, depending on what tank you want to load from," a local supplier said, adding that it is unclear when the congestion is likely to ease.

Buyers at the port have been struggling to find suppliers that have bunker fuel availability for prompt dates. "Dates look tight," a buyer said.

--Tom Washington, thomas.washington@spglobal.com

--Eleni Pittalis, eleni.pittalis@spglobal.com

--Emma Kettley, emma.kettley@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Fox, jonathan.fox@spglobal.com