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Cargo ship calls at Singapore hub plummet to 27-year low, marine fuel sales fall

Roslan Khasawneh

By Roslan Khasawneh

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Cargo ship arrivals in Singapore, the world's top transhipment and bunkering hub, plummeted to their lowest in nearly three decades in May, while dragging sales of marine fuels to a three-month low, official data showed.

As the coronavirus pandemic hit global trade, the number of cargo ships calling at the world's top transhipment port fell in May to 3,059, the lowest since at least January 1993, the oldest available figure, data from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) showed.

Shipping activity may stay sluggish as container ship activity and bunkering demand remain weak in June, analysts and traders said.

Blank sailings, when a vessel skips a port on its route or the entire journey is cancelled, have surged in the first week of June, with the total pandemic-induced blanked capacity nearing 4 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU), shipping analysis firm Sea-Intelligence said last week.

On Sunday, trade minister Chan Chun Sing said the pace of planned extensions to Singapore's ports would depend on future demand as the pandemic batters the trade-reliant economy.

Slowing trade activity has also weighed on marine refuelling, or bunkering, activity in the Singapore hub.

"COVID-19 finally caught up in terms of bunker trend," said a bunker fuel trader based in the city-state.

Singapore bunker fuel sales volumes in May dropped to 3.925 million tonnes, down 2% from last year and 5% from April, the MPA data showed.

Average bunker loadings fell to a five-month low in May at 1,206 tonnes per ship, down from 1,285 tonnes in April and 1,208 tonnes last year, Reuters calculations showed.

Marine fuel sales in Singapore totalled 20.76 million tonnes this year, up 5% from last year but lower than the record 21.43 million tonnes sold in the first five months of 2018.


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(Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh, Additional reporting by John Geddie; Editing by Tom Hogue)