North Asian Qatari oil buyers seek clarity on Fujairah bunkering

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North Asian buyers of Qatari oil were Tuesday still seeking clarification about whether they can bunker in Fujairah, after the UAE port eased restrictions Monday on tankers going to or arriving from Qatari ports.

The port’s move came a week after it imposed a blanket ban following the UAE’s severing of diplomatic ties and closing of all its borders with Qatar.

In its latest move, Fujairah has now decided “not to receive any Qatari flag vessel or owned by Qatari companies or Qatari individuals; not load/unload any cargo of Qatari origin in any port of water of UAE; not to allow ships to load any cargo of UAE origin to State of Qatar,” according to a circular obtained by S&P Global Platts.

An official at Japan’s JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy said it is still verifying information on whether its tankers going to or arriving from Qatar can bunker in Fujairah and was considering its best operational options.

A source at another North Asian refiner said it understood it should be able to bunker in Fujairah following the easing of restrictions but it still plans to secure bunker fuel in Singapore for its VLCC arriving at Saudi Arabian and Qatari ports later this month.

“As of now we should now be able to do bunkering in Fujairah but we are not certain about three or five days away,” the source said.

VLCC Yamatogawa, a part of Japanese refiner Idemitsu Kosan’s time charter fleet, entered Al Shaheen terminal in Qatar Monday, sailing from Yokkaichi in central Japan, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow software cFlow.

An official at Japanese shipper Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, which operates the Panama-flagged Yamatogawa, said Tuesday that none of its tankers had any plans at present to bunker in Fujairah.

Some bunker suppliers and purchasers were still seeking clarity on Monday’s circular from the Fujairah Port Authority.

Two bunker suppliers in Fujairah said Tuesday they were still maintaining the status quo, restricting bunkering to vessels coming from or going to Qatar as well as Qatari flagged vessels on the basis of the circular.

“There is still a lot of speculation. Some customers want to play safe,” a bunker trader in the Middle East said, adding that they were considering Salalah in Oman and Bandar Abbas in Iran to meet bunker demand.

However, Salalah and Bandar Abbas come with their own limitations, some sources said.

BP is a bunker supplier in Salalah but mainly sells gasoil and naval distillate F76 to naval ships at Salalah.

Bunker fuel in Salalah is estimated to be significantly more expensive than in Fujairah, a trader said, adding that those who bunker there will have to pay higher fuel bills.

Concerns about bunkering in Bandar Abbas also remain due to lingering US financial sanctions against Tehran.

Fujairah is the only multi-purpose port on the eastern seaboard of the UAE approximately 70 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz.

Industry estimates put marine fuel sales in Fujairah at around 12 million-15 million mt in 2016. The port authorities do not provide any official data.

Source: Platts

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