Delays at Chinese ports prompt ships to skip refueling in Singapore

Delays at ports in China and elsewhere have forced the Container and bulk ships to reschedule their stops and skip Asia’s largest refueling hub in Singapore to save time.

According to preliminary data released by the Maritime Port Authority, the total number of ships called at the state to refuel last month was 3,020 which is 441 fewer than a year earlier. This has led to bunker fuel sales falling to 3.77 m million tons in March, the lowest seasonally since 2016. Bunkering is the supply of fuel for use by ships.

Fewer ships stopping at Singapore is a result of congestion at ports globally which has prompted companies to skip the transit hub between East and West. China’s worst covid outbreak since 2020 has led to a complete lockdown in Shanghai. This has created gridlock at the world’s largest container port, with queues of vessels building there and at other stops handling diverted shipments. The situation has put more pressure on the already strained global supply chain.

Hundreds of bulk ships are waiting off East China to unload raw commodities and are likely to refuel in Guangzhou or Zhoushan instead of Singapore to save on time, traders said. Ships are “locked up waiting in congested areas” and are burning lots of fuel, Jeremy Nixon, chief executive officer of Ocean Network Express, said on April 5.

Singapore is typically a refueling stop for container ships passing through the Strait of Malacca as they take goods from Northeast Asia to Europe. Bulk carriers transporting iron ore from South America to China and tankers carrying crude oil from the Middle East to Asia also pass the port.

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co. canceled sailings from Europe to Asia that would have included stops in Singapore, according to notices sent to customers.

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