IMO 2020 dominated discussion on the first day of SIBCON. Image Credit: Ship & Bunker
The upcoming IMO 2020 global sulfur cap is not expected to threaten Singapore's position as by far the world's biggest bunkering port.
That was the consensus of several speakers today who were sharing their views with delegates during the first day of the 20th Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON).
But the new regulations will create some headwinds for the port, that last year sold a record 50 million metric tonnes (mt) of product in 2017.
Forces of change include the reality that the vast majority of vessels will switch away from fuel oil to comply with the new global 0.50% sulfur cap. In turn, this should mean other ports in the region become more competitive with Singapore, particularly for distillate grades.
How can the industry hope to tackle something as big as IMO 2020 when it doesn't even know how big the market is?Adrian Tolson, Senior Partner, 20|20 Marine Energy
China in particular was seen as benefitting from IMO 2020, with one speaker seeing the country as having "the potential to become a future powerhouse of bunkering."
However, one delegate who spoke to Ship & Bunker on the sidelines of the event, said it was unlikely that authorities would allow the country's teapot refiners to sell into the bunker market, meaning their low sulfur production will head to Singapore - at least for now.
A number of speakers saw Singapore's current infrastructure and high standards, such as mandatory mass flow metering (MFM), as key factors that will allow the city state to hold its own in the coming years.
Left unsaid was exactly what slice of the global market Singapore's 50 million mt of sales represents, with the lack of clear answer highlighting the difficulty faced by the industry in addressing IMO 2020 as a whole.
During today's presentations the size of the global market has been pegged by some speakers at 230 million mt, and by others at a little over 300 million mt.
As 20|20 Marine Energy's Adrian Tolson commented to Ship & Bunker: "How can the industry hope to tackle something as big as IMO 2020 when it doesn't even know how big the market is?"