Houston — November marked a period of mostly advances for Latin America bunker spot pricing, with ports in Panama, Brazil and Peru reaching multi-month or even historical highs, especially in the 0.5%S segment.
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Marine fuel 0.5%S in Balboa, Panama, increased to a monthly average of $344/mt on an ex-wharf basis in November, rising $19, or 6%, from October.
It was the highest value for the fuel since $358/mt in March, when the coronavirus pandemic started to severely undermine global oil demand. The fuel represents 76% of bunker sales in Panama.
Similarly, the average price for marine gasoil in Balboa was also at its highest since March. Pricing for MGO, a bunker fuel with up to 0.1% sulfur content, averaged $398/mt in November, up $22, or 5.9%, from October. In March, the average value in Balboa was $408/mt.
In high sulfur IFO 380, the average value in the Panamanian port was $300/mt in November, a $4.50, or 1.5%, increase from the previous month. The fuel is now used only by ships adapted with scrubbers, due to its non IMO-compliant sulfur content of 3.5%. It makes up around 14% of bunker sales in Panama and its pricing in this hub has kept its strength throughout the year.
The last time the high sulfur bunker fuel had seen a more robust performance in Balboa was in August, when it averaged $305/mt.
Contributing to the firmness in Panama over November were higher resupply costs, delays in barging operations related to Hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, and steep increases in the global oil markets in the latter part of the month as COVID-19 vaccine news brightened the outlook for demand recovery.
Brazil's strong exports support prices
Brazil's 0.5%S monthly assessment in November averaged $351/mt on a delivered basis in the port of Santos, a $22, or 7%, rise from October. The 0.5%S in the Brazilian port has not been higher since February, when the monthly value averaged $497/mt.
Brazilian sweet and heavy crude grades are optimal for the production of bunker fuel with 0.5% sulfur content, complying with the rules implemented Jan. 1 by the International Maritime Organization for exhaust emissions. The strong global demand for low sulfur oil and products has driven Brazil's strong exports in 2020, and state-led Petrobras officials said in the week starting Nov. 30 that they expect this export growth to continue over the next five years, outpacing domestic demand.
However, Brazil's bunker fuel and fuel oil shipments declined 3.6% in October from 3.47 million barrels in September, according to data from the National Petroleum Agency, due to increased domestic demand.
Price for marine gasoil in Santos averaged $447/mt in November, up $15, or 3.5%, from the previous month. MGO in that port last averaged a higher value in August, at $478/mt.
As in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil is no longer a market for high sulfur IFO 380 due to the type of crude it produces.
Peru also on the rise
Pricing for delivered 0.5%S in Peru also rose strongly on month in November, when it averaged $397/mt in the port of Callao, an increase of $23/mt, or 6.3%, from October.
November's average price was the highest on record in the Peruvian port, as the market for 0.5%S was one of the last ones to mature in Latin America and started to be assessed by S&P Global Platts only on April 20. The level, however, was not far from the previous peak of $395/mt reached in August.
Marine gasoil in Callao averaged $497/mt in November, $18/mt, or 3.8%, above October. Its previous higher monthly average was in August, at $514/mt.
Market sources said scarce 0.5%S supply in neighboring Ecuador, which mostly imports its IMO-compliant bunker fuel from Panama, benefited the Peruvian bunker market in November, although that window of opportunity appeared to be closing in December, with renewed availabilities in Guayaquil and La Libertad, according to market sources.
Other key Latin American ports rebounded in November from a slower pace in October, but without reaching multi-month highs.
In Buenos Aires, 0.5%S averaged $369/mt in November, an increase of $17, or 4.9%, from October. In Valparaiso, Chile, the fuel averaged $399/mt, rising $16, or 4.2%, from the previous month. Cartagena's average price for the fuel advanced $16, or 4.8%, to $339/mt, and in Guayaquil it rose $13, or 3.5%, to $378/mt.
In the high sulfur segment, regional ports still selling that type of IFO 380 also posted monthly advances for the most part, but the marine gasoil segment had some minor retreats, with the steepest one registered in Valparaiso, where MGO monthly average in November dropped $8.15, or 1.5%, to $535/mt.