New IMO regulation leads to sharp demand rise for low-sulphur fuels

The Port of Rotterdam has reported a sharp rise in demand for very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSF0) and biofuel bunkers as a result of new global sulphur emission regulations which came into force on 1 January.

In the last quarter of 2019, sales of low sulphur bunker oil with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% (VLSFO) showed a large increase and totalled 48% of all bunkers sold, the port said. In December alone, 62% of the fuel sold was VLSFO.

]The International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s new global sulphur regulation aims to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide emissions from ships. Since 1 January, the cap on sulphur emissions has been reduced from 3.5% to 0.5% in areas outside current emission control areas (Baltic Sea, North Sea, North America and US Caribbean), where the limit is even lower at 0.1%.

The Port of Rotterdam said sales of bunkers with less than 0.1% sulphur content (ultra low sulphur fuel oil) comprised 13% of sales in the last quarter of 2019.

In addition to increased sales of VLSFO, there was also a rise in sales of liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkers, than tripling from 9,483 tonnes to 31,944 tonnes.

“For the first time, the sale of biofuel bunkers – bunker fuel to which a certain percentage of biofuel has been added – is also clearly visible in figures.

“During 2019, 2% of sales of fuel oil and 0.5% of distillates (marine gas oil - MGO - and marine diesel oil - MDO) involved biofuel bunkers. Sales of biofuel bunkers showed an increase, particularly in the fourth quarter.”

The percentage of biofuel in bunkers varied between 5-50%, with 20-30% the most common, the port said, adding that the bulk of bunkers sold in Rotterdam was for intercontinental transport.