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Red Sea diversions testing African bunker supply

Bunker fuel prices in African ports continue to rise owing to firm demand from vessel diversions in the Red Sea region

Strong bunkering demand in African ports supported marine fuel prices in recent weeks, while persistent demand could reduce availability in the coming months

BUNKERING demand in Africa remained strong in recent days to boost marine fuel prices, as containerships continue to divert from the Red Sea to use the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope.

Monjasa, a major bunker supplier in Africa, reported high refuelling demand in its African supply locations such as Namibia and Togo, as vessels typically require a top-up in Africa to complete the longer voyage, Simone Piredda, senior trader at Monjasa, told Lloyd’s List.

Bunker supply availability in some African locations could be diminished in the coming months if widespread diversions persist, because some of the ports heavily rely on fuel oil imports to meet demand because of limited local oil refining capacity.

South Africa is totally reliant on fuel oil imports because none of the country’s oil refineries produce bunker fuel, according to local bunker supplier Linsen Nambi.

The country’s bunker supply has been disrupted since September of the past year, as bunker deliveries in Algoa Bay — one of the main supply locations — stopped because of a tax dispute between suppliers and the local government. Bunker supply in Algoa Bay made up about 30% of total deliveries in South Africa in the past year, according to market sources. 

South Africa imported around 60,000 tonnes of fuel oil per month in 2023, according to oil analytics firm Vortexa.

“Overall availability and supply logistics are surely being tested right now in Africa, however, at present all fuel grades can be arranged with a sufficient notice,” Pireda added.



Bunker fuel prices in South Africa rose this week, with very-low sulphur fuel oil prices in Durban rising by $40 per tonne since December 19 to reach $710 per tonne on January 5, marking a wide premium of around $90 per tonne to Fujairah, the nearest major bunkering hub, according to live bunker benchmark platform Engine. 

“Considering total product availability and stretched supply logistics the price levels in West Africa have naturally increased during the past weeks, however, all data shows that the area remains an attractive refuelling option,” Pireda said.

Containership diversions around Africa could boost bunkering demand by 2% globally, according to estimates by Peter Sand, chief analyst at Xeneta.

Bunker suppliers also reported rising demand in some major hubs such as Singapore, as most vessels try to refuel with the maximum volumes at such locations for longer voyages, Pireda said.


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