Panama marine fuel sales rose to 3.48 million metric tonne (mt) in the first nine months of the year, higher by 19 per cent compared with the same period in 2016. Fuel oil sales were up by 18 per cent to 3.22 million mt and marine gasoil (MGO) sales rose by 33 per cent to 259,543 mt.
According to price reporting agency, Petroleum Argus, the increased bunker demand on a per vessel basis, prompted by larger ship sizes, could be part of the overall sales tonnage increase.
The number of Neopanamax transits grew to 153 to 170 per month this year. The number of smaller ships transits shrunk to an average of 842 per month during the first nine months of 2017, compared with an average of 929 per month during the same period in 2016.
As the Panama canal expansion was completed in June 2016, it allowed for Neopanamax vessels, with a beam of 107 feet and longer, to transit the canal. However, the total number of vessels transiting the canal has been steady from before the expansion, at about 1,000 per month.
The Pacific side of the canal accounted for the majority of the sales of 2.54 million mt (79 per cent) of heavy bunker fuel, and 174,739 mt (67 per cent) of distillates (MGO).
Panama’s yearly marine fuel demand has been on the rise since 2014, and is expected to surge further this year. Despite the lack of a local refinery, Panama is the second busiest bunkering location in Latin America after Brazil.
Panama’s main ports, Balboa on the Pacific side and Cristobal on the Caribbean side, are typically priced the cheapest in Latin America. Fuel oil in Panama is mainly sourced from the US Gulf coast, Mexico and Ecuador, among others. MGO is imported from the US Gulf.
Sea News, November 23