Nick Jameson has been reporting on the shipping and the marine fuel industry for almost twenty years. He is based in Petromedia's UK office.
Energy officials in Iran have allowed bunkering to move back to the top of their agenda and like many in the market they are trying to read the future. In this case, a future bound to global power politics.
A tentative deal on Iran’s nuclear programme has opened the prospect of sanctions being lifted and the country being reintegrated with the world economy.
That has two implications for the bunker industry.
The first is of immediate interest to Iran and its neighbours in the Middle East Gulf.
Sanctions have been targeting Iran’s oil industry, which helps explain why the country, despite its strategic location and abundance of product, has a relatively small bunker sector. Indeed, Iran’s bunker sector has been forced to define itself more by high volume rhetoric than high volume sales.
Should sanctions be lifted, that would change. One Iranian official, speaking in August, reiterated Iran’s intention to take 50% share of the regional bunker market. A 50% share of a market that includes Fujairah - one of the world’s top three bunkering destinations - would be some achievment.
Another senior official has been quoted as saying that Iran’s private sector is ready to invest $180 million in bunkering before next April.
The second implication of sanctions being eased would be the impact on oil prices.
Without sanctions most analysts agree that crude prices would fall. That would put more downward pressure on bunker prices, which have already been close to six year lows.
A report by the World Bank predicted that lifting sanctions on Iran would lower global oil prices by $10 per barrel in 2016 - a drop of some 20%.
If bunker prices were to fall by a similar percentge, 380 centistokes product could be changing hands for less than $200 per metric tonne.
How the marine fuel sector would react to a new era of low energy prices is a question for bunker players around the globe.
For the moment, however, the issue is out of their hands. International politics will determine the next move.
This is an edited version of a text that first appeared in the 'Commentary' column in the September 2015 issue of the Bunker Bulletin, the Platts Bunkerworld magazine.