Panama bunker consumption per vessel increases
New York, 21 November (Argus) — Panama marine fuel sales rose to 3.48mn t in the first nine months of the year, higher by 19pc compared with the same period in 2016. Fuel oil sales were up by 18pc to 3.22mn t and marine gasoil (MGO) sales rose by 33pc to 259,543t.
Increased bunker demand on a per vessel basis, prompted by larger ship sizes, could be part of the overall sales tonnage increase.
The Panama canal expansion was completed in June 2016. The expansion allowed for Neopanamax vessels, with a beam of 107 feet and longer, to transit the canal. The number of Neopanamax transits grew to 153-170 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 last year. But 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 bulk of the sales – 79pc, or 2.54mn t of heavy bunker fuel and 67pc, or 174,739t, of MGO. Panama's yearly marine fuel demand has been on the rise since 2014, and is forecast to reach historic highs 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 typically sourced from the US Gulf coast, Mexico and Ecuador, among others. MGO is imported from the US Gulf. Panama also has the most bunker supplier competition because of ample oil tank storage capacity.