HSFO Debunkering Record High As March Carriage Ban Nears

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According to a Platts report, the number of vessels at the port of Hong Kong requesting for the debunkering of high sulfur bunker fuel has risen significantly this month, market sources have said.

“There are more debunkering inquiries this month [compared with last month], for up till February, we have to check barge schedules if it is possible to fit [all of them] in,” a Hong Kong-based supplier said.

Debunkered Fuel Rush

Suppliers are purchasing debunkered high sulfur fuel oil at a cheap price from shipowners, and reselling it at a profit to ships that are installed with scrubbers.

“In December, [vessels were] debunkering a few hundred mt [each time], this month, smaller volumes of up to 100 mt are being debunkered,” another supplier said.

Inquiries for HSFO has all but dried up after the International Maritime Organisation’s low sulfur marine fuel mandate kicked off on January 1.

“Very [little] demand, but many debunker orders,” the supplier said.

HSFO Imports Dwindle

Of the three oil majors which bring in fuel oil to Hong Kong, only Chevron is importing HSFO, while Sinopec and ExxonMobil have stopped HSFO imports and are only bringing in low sulfur marine fuel instead, market sources said.

Meanwhile, shipowners are rushing to debunker excess HSFO ahead of the carriage ban in March.

Carriage of fuel oil for use on board ships will be prohibited from March 1, 2020 if the sulfur content exceeds 0.5%, according to a MARPOL amendment adopted in 2018.

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Source: Platts

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