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World Bunkering Autumn 2010 49 L ast year it seemed open to question whether Singapore could continue to buck the global trend of falling volumes. The 2009 total volumes figure of 36.4 million tonnes, a 4.2% increase on 2009, seemed almost too good to last. The figures for the first half of 2010, however, seem to indicate Singapore is in for another surprisingly buoyant year in terms of bunkers supplied, with some 20 million tonnes delivered and insiders predicting that the 40 million tonnes mark will be passed this year. Container recovery drives boom A Maritime and Port Authority ( MPA) spokesperson said that the " amazing" bunker figures largely reflected a recovery of the container trades although supplies to bulker carriers had also picked up significantly. The renewed confidence in the container trades, which form the mainstay of Singapore's port business, is reflected by a decision by Neptune Orient Lines ( NOL) to embark on an ambitious $ 1.2 billion newbuilding programme for its container shipping arm APL. It has ordered 10 8,400 TEU vessels from South Korea- based Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering for delivery in 2013 and 2014. It has also signed a letter of intent for two 10,700 TEU vessels. NOL said it is investing in new vessels to meet future growth needs and to replace vessels with charter agreements that will expire in the next few years. Return to ' normal'? Dan- Bunkering's manager in Singapore, Kenni Goldenbeck, has also seen signs of an upswing. He says: " We have seen some positive trends in the market lately - not only in Singapore, but in South East Asia in general. The turnaround for vessels at Singapore anchorage has increased and the movement of tonnage in many segments has seemed to improve since the shipping crisis. Whether we are out of the crisis yet, is very difficult to say. I don't expect us to go back to the ' good old days' - that period is history. Now we are probably closer to ' normal' levels than earlier. Both owners, charterers, and suppliers shall consider these levels as ' normal' and adjust and act accordingly to manoeuvre their business to a safe future." So there is an optimistic feel in the Singapore market, but it is tem-pered with caution. Mr Goldenbeck comments: " The main challenge is still the overall shipping industry. Will the freight rates improve to better levels or go down? In which direction will the oil prices go? All that can naturally lead to some shipping companies going down as worst case scenarios, which can result in big financial losses to local suppliers and traders as well. Credit risk management should still be top priority and to say no is sometimes better than taking any chances. We are all here to keep the ball rolling, but using common sense and taking some care is still the way to go for all of us." He believes the potential implementation of flow meters is going to be interesting. He said that while the idea is good, it could be difficult persuading local suppliers to accept it. He added: " MPA will, as of now, not make it mandatory for suppliers, hence I foresee that only suppliers who have clients demanding flow meters will use it. The remaining will continue as per normal practice. If they do decide to make it mandatory, then I expect bunker prices in Singapore to go up, and will Singapore then lose market share to other countries? This is yet to be seen. We are all interested in making Singapore the best bunkering port worldwide and any improvements should be welcomed by all parties involved." Recession? What recession? Bucking the worldwide trend, Singapore continued to see volumes grow despite the global downturn, and now appears to be in the vanguard of the recovery GEoGraphical foc us: so uth east asia