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Feature: Singapore delivered 0.5% bunker term prices on steady rise in lead-up to IMO 2020

Singapore — Singapore delivered bunker term contract prices for 0.5% marine fuel have been rising steadily since debuting in February, outpacing expectations in some cases, as the industry gears up for the new 0.5% sulfur limit in 2020, market sources said this week.

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Bunker term prices for delivery in the fourth quarter and Q1 2020 in Singapore have been inked at higher levels over April-June than in Q1 as demand steadily increases and low sulfur fuel blending stock prices rise, the sources said.

Term prices in Q2 have been concluded at discounts of around $40/mt to the Mean of Platts Singapore 10 ppm gasoil in June on a delivered basis, narrowing from $50-$100/mt for contracts signed in Q1, the sources said.

"Some shipping companies came out to buy 0.5% sulfur bunker fuel recently as they were not sure if they could secure the bunker fuel in Q4 and Q1," a source at a shipping company in Asia said.

"The market is expecting a surge in demand [for low-sulfur bunkers] from September, though some shipowners have already expressed interest for term," a Singapore bunker trader said.

"Some shipowners have also started taking small parcels for trials and vessel testing, and we expect prices to trend up gradually when more demand emerges," the trader added.

CHINA REGULATION SPURS DEMAND

China introduced its own regulation to cap sulfur content in bunker fuel at 0.5% in January this year. At first, ships used marine gasoil, market sources said. The price of blending stocks to produce 0.5% sulfur bunker fuel jumped at the same time.

"Demand for 0.5% bunker fuel in China has increased because some shipping companies have finished cleaning [bunker] tanks [in their ships]," the source at a shipping company in Asia added.

In its latest tender, Thailand Bangchak sold 30,000 mt of vacuum low sulfur waxy residue with maximum 0.3% sulfur for loading over June 26-28 from Sriracha at a premium of around $100/mt to Mean of Platts Singapore 180 CST high sulfur fuel oil assessments, FOB, S&P Global Platts reported earlier.

The premium for the LSWR cargo for loading in H2 March was in the $50s/mt to MOPS 180 CST HSFO.

"It is no longer possible to get earlier prices [offered in March and April]," a shipowner who takes bunkers at Singapore said.

Traded differentials for Australia's heavy sweet crudes rose to record highs for the June trading cycle on strong demand from end-users for low sulfur fuel oil blending, Platts reported earlier.

Due to surging blending stocks prices, the premium for Marine Fuel 0.5% to the Mean of Platts Singapore 380 CST high sulfur fuel oil assessments hit a historical high of $135/mt on June 4, Platts data showed.

Singapore is the world's largest bunkering hub, with bunker sales volumes totaling 49.8 million mt in 2018, according to data from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.

--Atsuko Kawasaki, atsuko.kawasaki@spglobal.com

--Jeslyn Lerh, jeslyn.lerh@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com