Bunkering ports, Competing on price - Product update

Posted by
The Signal Group
June 14, 2021

In the maritime trade, fuel for ships (known in the industry as “Bunkers”) is the largest cost consideration for a voyage. Owner/operators put great value on when, where and how much to bunker - price being only one of many factors critical to this decision making process. Often Shipowners concentrate this function into a dedicated team known as the “bunker desk”, who interact with the commercial & operations teams as well as market players such as bunker brokers, traders and physical suppliers. Their goal is to find the right matrix of vessel itinerary, quantity, location and price to fit the specific needs of that voyage strategy.

Due to the quantity of fuel required for modern commercial vessels, even the weight for vessel stability during the voyage must be considered. Fuel quality can have major impacts on maintenance of the engine & subsystems. Delivery method can interfere with cargo operations (via barge while at anchor, or at berth). Bunkers are priced across global ports with these factors in mind, and change daily. The Signal Ocean platform uses data from BunkerEx to present this information in a method which is easy to consume for the decision maker. Pricing is available all common fuel types such as:

BunkerEx oil bunker price is global, and covers the largest bunkering hubs in the world including the following key ports: Rotterdam, Fujairah, Houston, Piraeus, Panama, Long Beach and Singapore.

Oil Bunkering prices at the Signal Ocean Platform.Data provided by BunkerEx.

The optimal time to refuel a vessel is when it is between earning periods (i.e. during her ballast leg). While not common, it is also possible to refuel en route during a voyage (the laden leg) should the Charter Party allow. In certain ports (e.g. Sines, Antwerp, Amsterdam) vessels can stem (load) bunkers concurrently with cargo operations. This optionality is crucial in the decision making process when estimating profitability of Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) earnings on a commercial voyage. The Signal Ocean Platform provides confidence to the decision maker by presenting a data driven insight into bunkering options for their voyage.

Technology can help - A day of a Bunkers Purchaser/Buyer

Bunkering ports report at the Signal Ocean Platform.

As of Jan 1 2020, IMO low sulphur regulations are a good example of the increased complexity and compliance issues facing a modern bunker procurement desk. For a typical voyage, you may find a number of different options are available. However the research involved in each option is extensive and time consuming, often requiring many phone calls to bunker traders for price checks. Compounding the complexity for any bunker purchaser is the number of voyages they are concurrently responsible for across various regions and vessel types. 

If we examine the challenges of a typical Aframax tanker voyage: 

The vessel must arrive at the load port with enough bunkers to safely reach its intended destination, unless otherwise stated in the charter party. Thus begins the decision making process for the next voyage - the vessel must sail from the Italian Adriatic coast to the Black Sea, and if needed, pick up fuel along the way. Pricing, availability, and en route (ie no deviation) are typically the first three factors thought of when making bunker decisions. Does the ship have scrubbers?  What regions in the expected voyage allow for use of burning a cheaper fuel option? These are just a couple other important questions to ask before making any final plans. Another factor that must be considered: does the contract warrant a carriage capacity (loadables)?  If for example, you warrant a load capacity of 98,000mt but can only load 97,500mt because you took too many bunkers, you take on the liability of that 500mt space that is no longer available. Coming soon will be our Cargo Intake calculator...stay tuned!

In addition to the Bunker Price dashboard already found in the Signal Ocean platform, a new report, Bunkering Ports is now available. This report assists the bunker purchaser to compare and assess bunkering pricing indications in areas of interest; ie the intended voyage route. By using this dashboard, crucial amounts of time can be saved from having to gather all this data piece by piece. With this time saved, the bunkering team can now spend more time negotiating the best price with an oil bunker provider (ie traders, brokers, physical suppliers). Using technology and applying the tools available will allow your bunkering department to spend less time on administrative and research.  Our platform allows your team to do what they do best, find additional profitability for your organization.    

The Signal Ocean platform provides a plethora of other dashboards to cater to the needs of different personas such as Bunker Traders/brokers and physical suppliers. It is evident that up-to-date market knowledge is essential for effective decision making, such as tracking fleets and/or specific vessels, understanding their itineraries, and estimating well their availability. A user of the Signal Ocean platform can easily find answers to the previously mentioned inquiries by using our state-of-the-art technology that is exposed through different dashboards. Characteristic examples include tracking the fleet of a commercial operator by the Fleet List dashboard, understanding vessel's specifications and its historical, current, and future voyage itineraries in the Vessels dashboard, checking which vessels have, or are expected to arrive at a port through the Ports dashboard, and even checking the weather conditions at a port of interest through the Weather at Port report. This knowledge can substantially improve decision-making, understand competition and facilitate discussion with potential clients.

The bunker price report and the latest bunkering ports report are available on our Free edition along with many more reports.

To learn more about Signal Ocean, and get access to additional Analytical and Market Reports, as well as access to APIs and the data behind The Signal Ocean Platform, request your demo.

Sign Up to our free edition and start your journey in commercial vessel tracking with Signal Ocean Platform. 

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