Mauritius occupies a strategic position in the Indian Ocean, offering a base for shipping on the East-West trade routes and for businesses looking for a convenient doorstep to Africa. About 35,000 ships pass the Indian Ocean or head toward Africa, utilize Mauritius’ port Louis for bunker fuel annually. Ports of Mauritius already offer special port tariff for bunkering operations.
The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) conference was held at Port Louis between the 13th and 15th October, 2015 to earmark and outline the Mauritian government’s ambitions for this growing business sector. The Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries, Shipping and Outer Islands was the main speaker of the event.
Each year 35,000 ships transit the waters around Mauritius moving between Asia, Southern Africa and South America and over the last few years, the number of ships taking on bunker fuel in Port Louis has been increasing. The volume of bunker fuel supplied rose by 6.8% from year 2013 to 2014. However, this figure represents just 30% of the government’s short term goal of 1 million metric tons of bunker exports per year.
To support this growth the government has come up with several plans and incentives. They have liberalised bunker trade by providing incentives via removal of certain charges and duties, by introducing a quicker process for issue of bunker licence and import permits. The Government acknowledges that a successful, business friendly petroleum and bunkering hub would need efficient cargo handling facilities, deep shipping channels, adequate berth and quay capacity and of course a skilled workforce. The port limits have been extended to provide for sites which would allow the anchorage and furtherance of petroleum based activities, a full feasibility study has been conducted and a master plan developed.
The two-day event was named the Mauritius: A Bunker Hub: Driving the Ocean Economy. During the event, IBIA provided a tailored training program that covered the basics of “bunkering and structure” needed for bunker operations development. The training courses set a record for IBIA by attracting 53 delegates reflecting the widespread interest in this new initiative and in preparation for this significant business growth. The government envisages a growth and employment potential for 25,000 people.
Peter Hall, CEO IBIA commented: “Our first regional forum in the Indian Ocean region has been a great success. The government has taken the strategic decision to develop the petroleum industry as a core pillar of its economic plan. As a result, it has implemented new measures to ensure a reputable, reliable high quality business-friendly environment with real opportunities, as reflected in the attendance at this event.” Mr. Hall added “This development could be a significant economic accelerator for the country, as ships that stop for fuel spend on other services, in fact, it is estimated that at current prices, for every $100 spent on fuel, an additional $100 is spent in the local economy, on direct and indirect services such as agency fees, port charges and deliveries to the ship and crew transfers, hotels, career development, finance bunker trading, to just mention a few.”