News 18th Oct, 2023

Europe & Africa Fuel Availability Outlook 18 Oct 2023

Cape Town
Las Palmas
Malta Offshore
Port Elizabeth (Algoa Bay)
Richards Bay

HSFO supply crunch in the ARA amid loading delays

Suppliers in Gibraltar brace for upcoming bad weather

Tight availability in Piraeus

PHOTO: Oil storage tanks in the oil and bunkering hub of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Getty Images

Northwest Europe

Prompt HSFO availability is very tight in Rotterdam and in the wider ARA hub. Product loading delays and congestion at oil terminals have largely led to the supply crunch, two sources say.

The earliest delivery dates for HSFO in Rotterdam with many suppliers stretch out to the end of this month.

Some bunker barges have been waiting for more than a week now to load HSFO at the oil terminals in the ARA, a source says. However, the grade's availability is expected to improve in the coming days amid signs of congestion easing there, a trader claims.

VLSFO and LSMGO availability is relatively better in the ARA hub. Lead times of up to five days are generally recommended to ensure full coverage from suppliers. One supplier can even supply the grades for prompt delivery dates.

The ARA’s independently held fuel oil stocks averaged 2% lower in the first two weeks of this month than across September, according to Insights Global data. The fuel oil stocks declined for the third consecutive month and were at their lowest level since October 2022.

The region’s independent gasoil inventories – which include diesel and heating oil – also declined by 2% on the month and were at their lowest monthly level since December 2022.

VLSFO and LSMGO availability remains normal for delivery off Skaw. But securing prompt stems can be difficult due to rough weather conditions in the region, a source says. Recommended lead times for both grades are around 7-10 days.


Securing HSFO in Gibraltar has become much easier now after some suppliers received replenishment cargoes recently. Three suppliers have been actively quoting prices for stems in Gibraltar, including for prompt supply and dates further out.

One tanker unloaded a total of 114,000 bbls (17,000 mt) of HSFO cargo at Gibraltar last week, according to cargo tracker Vortexa.

With improved availability of HSFO, the port's Hi5 spread has widened. Gibraltar’s Hi5 spread was pegged at $71/mt on Wednesday, more than a double from $31/mt last week. It briefly slipped into negative territory in late September.

VLSFO and LSMGO availability is said to be normal in Gibraltar. Lead times of 4-6 days are generally recommended for both grades there. But rough weather conditions in the port could push lead times further. Strong gale-force wind gusts of up to 50 knots and waves of nearly three meters are forecast to hit the region on Thursday, which could trigger suspension until Friday.

Some suppliers in Gibraltar have already cautioned bunker buyers about potential delays and congestion over the period. One supplier experienced delays of 4-8 hours in Gibraltar on Wednesday morning, according to port agent MH Bland.

Meanwhile, bunkering in the Port of Huelva in Spain has been suspended since Tuesday amid rough weather conditions, MH Bland says. Bunker deliveries by barge can still be arranged at anchorage, it adds.

VLSFO and LSMGO availability is said to be normal in Las Palmas. Las Palmas’ HSFO price on Wednesday was about $14/mt higher than in Gibraltar.

Prompt availability of VLSFO and LSMGO is normal in the Portuguese ports of Lisbon and Sines, a source says. A longer lead time is generally recommended for VLSFO supply in Leixões. This is primarily because the deliveries there are carried out by trucks with limited capacity, hence a few extra days are needed to supply the entire stem, a source says.

In the Greek port of Piraeus, prompt VLSFO and LSMGO availability is very tight, a source says.  

Other bunker delivery locations in the Mediterranean such as off Malta and Istanbul have normal availability of VLSFO and LSMGO. One supplier can supply both grades in Istanbul, with lead times of 3-4 days.

Prompt bunker supply is available off Malta, however, buyers may need to pay price premiums for deliveries that are prompt than the recommended lead time, a source says.


Offshore bunkering in Algoa Bay has remained suspended for nearly a month now. The deliveries came to a standstill after the South African Revenue Service (SARS) detained bunker barges over import duty disputes in September.

Talks between bunker suppliers and authorities to resolve the Algoa Bay bunkering crisis have reached an advanced stage, two port agents told ENGINE. However, there is no set timeline by when offshore bunkering could resume in the bay, one of the port agents said.

Meanwhile, bunker operations continue to run normally in other South African ports of Cape Town, Richards Bay and Durban.

VLSFO and LSMGO availability has remained steady so far in Durban and Richards Bay. Lead times of up to seven days are recommended in both ports.

VLSFO availability is tight in Mozambique’s Nacala and Maputo ports, a source says. One supplier in Maputo requires lead times of at least six days for product delivery. On the other hand, HSFO and LSMGO supply has been good in Nacala.

By Nithin Chandran

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