VLSFO sales are growing

Bunkering Bunkering at the Port of Rotterdam. Image: Freek van Arkel
Industry Database

The new low-sulphur bunker oil VLSFO (Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil with a maximum 0.5% sulphur) has become extremely popular in Europe’s largest bunker port.

Half of all November bunker sales at the Port of Rotterdam were for VLSFO. This has been confirmed from the bunkering notifications via the Port of Rotterdam Authority’s TimeToBunker App, as the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur cap compliance date draws close.

At present, the TimeToBunker App processes a third of all bunker notifications in the Port of Rotterdam. TimeToBunker data show that VLSFO sales have increased dramatically over the past two months: September - 1,700t, October - 32,000t and November - 95,000t. This means that the VLSFO percentage within total fuel oil sales grew from 1.8% in September to 51.6% in November. The sale of distillates (MGO and MDO) is stable in these months.

The sulphur level of fuel oil is not stated in standard bunkering notifications. However, Ronald Backers, the Port Authority’s bunkering expert, suspects that this trend is representative for all bunker sales in Rotterdam: “The TimeToBunker App has been used since February and is a huge success. Over a third of all bunkering notifications run via the app. I see no reason to assume that companies that still make standard bunkering notifications have completely different clients with completely different fuel oil purchasing behaviour.”

Although even stricter sulphur regulations apply to shipping on the North Sea and bunker oil may only contain 0.1% sulphur, many shipping companies in Rotterdam are ordering VLSFO, because they also sail intercontinentally and not just across the North Sea.

As of 1 January 2020, sea-going vessels on the world’s oceans have to adhere to the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur cap. The current maximum is 3.5%. High-sulphur fuel will only be permitted on vessels that have scrubbers onboard.

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