(Reuters) - Sales volumes of marine fuels in Singapore surged to a record 4.46 million tonnes in January, the highest in any month since records began, easing concerns that mass flow meters (MFM) could negatively impact bunkering activity, official data showed.
"The (January) numbers imply that ship-owners and operators are even more confident to take bunkers in Singapore now that all deliveries are made using MFM barges," a Singapore-based bunker fuels trader in Singapore said.
At the start of 2017, Singapore became the world's first port to mandate the use of MFM on all bunker vessels licensed by the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) delivering marine fuel oil in an effort to boost quality and transparency across the industry.
MFMs are designed to minimise inaccuracies and errors in measuring the delivered quantity of bunkers. But some industry participants were concerned the new systems would drive away some of Singapore's bunkering traffic as a result of higher costs.
January sales volumes were 7 percent higher from the same time last year and 14 percent higher from the quantities sold in December, the latest data MPA showed.
A total of 3,630 vessels called in at Singapore for bunkers in January, 2 percent higher from the previous month but virtually unchanged from the same time last year.
The volume of bunker fuel each ship took in January was at its highest since at least 2012, loading an average 1,230 tonnes each, Reuters calculations showed. This compared to the previous record of 1,200 tonnes per ship seen in April 2014.
While January offers a first glimpse into Singapore's bunker fuel sales volumes since MFMs were made mandatory at the start of the year, industry participants said it could take some months before a clear trend is established due to the seasonality of bunker sales in the first quarter of the year.
Monthly sales of 380-cst high-sulphur fuel oil jumped to a record high of 3.34 million tonnes in January, up 16 percent from December and well above the previous record of 3.23 million tonnes in May 2016.
Sales volumes of the less costly high-density 500-cst marine fuel were near a record high after climbing to 893,000 tonnes in January, up 23 percent from last year, and 9 percent higher from a month earlier. Sales of the 500-cst fuel reached a record 899,000 tonnes in May 2016.
January sales of Emissions Control Area (ECA) compliant low-sulphur marine gas oil (LSMGO) were also robust, rising 39 percent from last year, and 26 percent higher from December, to 118,000 tonnes.
By contrast, sales of the lower-viscosity 180-cst fuel were at a record low of just 33,000 tonnes in January. Year-on-year sales of the 180-cst fuel were 46 percent lower from the last year and 19 percent below December's volumes.
Over the past thirteen months, year-on-year sales of the 180-cst fuel have fallen in each month with the exception of April 2016, during which volumes grew by 1 percent from the same time in the previous year.
Editing by Jane Merriman