Panama's Bunker Suppliers Prepare for IMO 2020

Image courtesy Monjasa

Published Jan 21, 2019 9:07 AM by The Maritime Executive

Monjasa, the second-largest local bunker supplier in the Panama Canal zone, has brought a new bunkering tanker to the area to meet growing demand. The 8,800 dwt Accra is now the largest vessel of her kind operating in the Canal, and she is among the youngest. 

“Today, the total fleet of bunker barges in Panama holds an average age of 31 years and 3,100 dwt. So, employing our own quality tanker brings new opportunities for [ships] transiting the Canal and further helps us challenge status-quo in the local market,” said Monjasa Americas managing director Rasmus Jacobsen in a statement. 

The move is part of the firm's strategy to prepare for the IMO 2020 bunkering regulations. It already operates two bunkering barges on the Canal, one in Balboa and the other in Cristobal, and it delivers about 40,000 tonnes of bunkers every month - enough to supply about one-tenth of the area's total market of 4.5 million tonnes per year.

“More than ever, a safe port in terms of supply quality is the main concern of our customers. We already have the right sourcing partners in place to enable this transition towards more environmentally sound products," said Jacobsen. 

Beginning January 1, 2020, internationally-trading merchant ships will have to use fuel that contains no more than 0.5 percent sulfur. Carriage of noncompliant HFO - which typically has a sulfur content in the range of 2.5 percent - will be prohibited, unless the vessel is equipped with an exhaust scrubber. The transition process is expected to take several months, and most operators are making plans to begin in the third or fourth quarter of 2019. 

The IEA predicts that the demand for compliant fuel may have far-reaching effects on the refined product market. Refiners are expected to increase capacity rapidly over the next several years, but as they will be processing larger quantities of low-sulfur crude to meet the demand for low-sulfur bunkers, the cost of other fuels that depend upon the same feedstock could rise.