Bunker sales in Panama recover in Dec, resilience seen in H2 2020
25th January 2021 09:34 GMT

Panama bunker sales recovered in December from the fall seen in the previous month, but the overall 2020 sales volume in the Latin American hub was 11.4% lower than in 2019, data from Panama Maritime Authority showed.

Sales in Panama’s bunker segments -- marine fuel with up to 0.5% sulfur content, marine gasoil with up to 0.1% sulfur, and high sulfur bunker fuel -- totaled 413,230 mt in December, an increase of 13.6% from November, which offset the 11.8% month-on-month fall in November.

Sales for marine fuel 0.5%S rose 13.9% month on month in December to 296,006 mt. However, the volume was still 23.8% under January’s 388,307 mt, when the fuel started to be the norm for the shipping industry after the International Maritime Organization implemented rules for maximum sulfur content in bunkers.

Sales for the high sulfur fuel, now only allowed to be used by ships with scrubbing systems, and also in high demand from US refineries, rose 15.2% in December to 74,762 mt, adding to a 15.5% increase in November.

This fuel, which was expected to occupy a more marginal role in bunker sales after the implementation of IMO-2020 rules, has actually seen strong sales in Panama. In January and February 2020, only 21,426 mt and 41,089 mt were respectively sold.

In December, high sulfur sales represented 18% of the Panamanian bunker market, while VLSFO accounted for 72% and marine gasoil 10%.

Sales of marine gasoil, including low sulfur marine gasoil, rose 9.4% month-on-month in December to 42,462/mt. The volume is 37.2% lower than the 67,606 mt sold in January.

Resilience amid pandemic

The impact in demand brought by the global coronavirus pandemic was most forceful during the first half of 2020, when bunker sales fell almost one month after the other, with June registering the lowest volume of the year at 302,330 mt.

However, volumes have risen since July, except for November, when Panama suffered indirect effects from two hurricanes in Central America, which forced some port closures. December actually registered the second highest volume of sales in 2020, after January’s 477,339 mt.

“Sales have been rebounding these last few months, and January is coming strong too,” a bunker market source said.

Bunker sales in 2020 totaled 4.74 million mt in Panama’s both coasts, Pacific where the main port of Balboa is located, and the Caribbean, where the port of Cristobal is situated. The number is 11.4% lower than the 5.35 million mt sold in 2019.

While sales of VLSFO and MGO were at its highest in January last year, the high sulfur bunker fuel's sales peaked in December.


Bunker prices in Balboa have been increasing as sales have risen.

S&P Global Platts average assessment so far in January 2021 is of $429/mt, compared with an average of $398/mt in December.

High sulfur fuel pricing has averaged $347/mt this January. In December, the average price was $328/mt.

Marine gasoil pricing has averaged so far in January $487/mt, compared with $455/mt in December.

An average of 35 barges rendered fuel service to a total of 6,625 ships in Panama in 2020, according to Panama Maritime Authority. Ships serviced in 2019 numbered 7,634.

Around 84% of bunker sales in Panama occurred on the Pacific Coast last year, while 16% were registered on the Caribbean coast.

Bunkerworld .,
25th January 2021 09:34 GMT