Shipowners losing millions by choosing the wrong bunker port

Bunkers are one of the largest costs associated with a
voyage, so making the right decisions around it are crucial. Although many shipping
companies have dedicated bunker teams, the decision of where to bunker tends to
start with the chartering manager during their initial voyage estimation.

Before a vessel becomes open, chartering managers begin to assess
multiple voyage options. This typically happens well in advance as an
unemployed ship equals unrecoverable earnings (time is a perishable good). For an
accurate voyage estimate, chartering managers need to collect information on both
the vessel and ports specific to the voyage.

Vessel parameters are often similar for each voyage: max.
cargo capacity, bunkers remaining on board [ROB], tank capacities, consumption tables,
allowed drafts, planned sailing speeds, etc.

However, voyage parameters are mostly variable and need to
be gathered for all voyage options: sea distances, weather forecasts, calling
costs, FFA rates and of course, bunker

There are established software solutions for most of the
above (e.g. Seametrix or Netpas for sea distances, StormGeo for weather routing, DA Desk or Diabos
for calling costs), however bunker prices are more complex as it’s not enough
to only check bunkering options at the load and discharge ports.

As the screenshot of our new software illustrates, even a
short voyage across the Mediterranean has many potential bunkering options:

Screenshot 278 Shipowners losing millions by choosing the wrong bunker port
BunkerEx Planner Screenshot (bubble around voyage denotes max. deviation distance allowed).

For a thorough voyage estimation, commercial operators need
to evaluate every port to check:

  • Bunkers
    only call
    : is it allowed and if so, are there additional calling costs?
  • Deviation
    : What is the time cost of the deviation?
  • Added
    : How much extra fuel will be consumed on the deviation?
  • ROB: Does
    the vessel have enough fuel on board to reach the port?
  • Bunkering
    : How long will the bunkering operation take and are weather delays
  • Suppliers
    and specifications
    : Who are the physical suppliers, are they reliable and
    do they have the specifications required?
  • Market
    : What is the ETA to each port? Is it possible to fix the price now or
    do I have to wait and risk an upturn in the market?
  • Bunker price:
    Considering all the above, what are current prices and are they low enough to
    justify stopping there?

Doing this for each bunker option on every potential voyage
is not feasible even with a large team, but how much does this really matter?

Hundreds of thousands in lost TC earnings: A Case Study

A common misconception is that there are only a handful of
major bunker ports in the world and that these are always the cheapest options.
For example, many owners will repeatedly bunker in one of Singapore, Rotterdam,
Fujairah, Gibraltar or Houston whenever they sail nearby without evaluating
other options. Looking at the data illustrates how expensive this might be.

Example Voyage: Busan-Shanghai-Doha

On a single voyage from Busan (Korea) to Shanghai (China) to
Doha (Qatar), we found the cheapest
bunker port changes every 2.82 days
(accounts for deviations, calling
costs, barging, extra bunker time, vessel day rate and consumption). This can
be seen in the graph below where each coloured cross denotes the cheapest bunker
port at that time – and it changes often.

Bunker Cost Comparison Graph Shipowners losing millions by choosing the wrong bunker port
Assumes lifting 500mt of fuel, vessel day rate of $12k, speed of 11 knots, consumption of 32mt/day, bunkering concurrently (free time) at Busan/Shanghai but add 10 hours bunker time and calling costs for bunkers only at Singapore/Fujairah/Zhoushan, includes barging if applicable (e.g. $5/mt at Shanghai, $0 at Singapore as >500mt) and adds extra fuel consumed on deviations

At some point over the last 6 months, each one of Singapore,
Fujairah, Busan, Shanghai and Zhoushan were the worst of the five bunkering options for this voyage.

Bunkering at these
ports during those periods would have cost shipowners an extra +$9.5k, losing $257/day
of potential TC earnings on this voyage (averaged and assuming 31 sailing days and
6 days port stay).

Even choosing the 2nd
best option averages to +$2.2k, equalling an extra $60/day on this voyage.

As our real-life back tests confirm, multiplying this across
an entire fleet means the cost of not choosing the right bunker port can add up
to hundreds of thousands of lost TC earnings per year.

Where technology can help

Given the sheer number of moving options to evaluate, it is unrealistic
to expect chartering, ops or bunker teams to continually recalculate all possible
bunkering options. Dedicated bunker desks are typically charged with managing
credit lines, negotiating and fixing firm stems, dealing with claims and now
researching 2020 strategies.

Our technology is built precisely for this: to grind through
thousands of potential bunker options in fractions of a second and combining it
with distances, deviations costs and live prices to reveal the cheapest options.
Besides potentially saving money, it cuts down hours of time collecting bunker
indications and calculating which port would be best.

Automatic updates every 15 minutes mean any changes in
market conditions are caught, whilst it also doubles as an accurate distance
calculator and bunker research platform for calling costs, suppliers, extras
and specifications in each port.

Performance optimising technologies are touching many
different corners of maritime and the choice of bunker port should be no
different. As is plain to see from the data above, spending a few minutes
punching in a voyage can reveal drastically cheaper bunkering options. Not doing
so can unknowingly cost owners and operators hundreds of dollars per day per

BunkerEx is currently offering free trials of their software to help owners make smarter bunkering decisions. For more information please contact:

Email: [email protected]

Tel: +44 (0) 203 874 7740


Office: New Broad Street House, London EC2M 1NH

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