World Bunkering Autumn 2010 75 ing permanently in ECA waters have contacted the suppliers directly, rather than going through resellers, as this option is more expensive. Other changes in demand continue to develop: " The shift towards higher viscosity fuels is still ongoing. Vessels that used to burn 180 are often adjusted to cope with 380 cSt. Also, older vessels are being scrapped at the moment so we see more demand for higher viscosity fuels [ as newer vessels replace them]," Schaap says. Likewise, Lukoil's Marco Buts says that requests for 180 cSt requests have gone down. " It's now mainly HS 380 and LS 1% 380 + MGO 0.1%." " During the last years there has been a switch from 180 cSt to 380 cSt," says Versteijlen. " Also, viscosities below 180 cSt are rather an exception" Market consolidation The ARA region appears to have been going through a period of consolidation recently, with regional players being taken over by international firms. At the beginning of the year, Aegean made headlines by purchasing Verbeke Bunkering, which had a substantial share of the Rotterdam market, delivering some 3.5 million tonnes of fuel in 2009. Verbeke now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Aegean. " The accretive acquisition of Verbeke represents our largest acquisition to date, positioning Aegean well to significantly increase future sales volumes and strengthen the company's global brand recognition. Based on its extensive operating history and strong reputation for high- quality service, Verbeke has built a leading market position in the ARA region. We intend to capitalise in the favourable growth prospects of the world's second largest bunkering market and meet the demand for our comprehensive marine fuel services," said Nikolas Tavlarios, president of Aegean, announcing the acquisition. " By joining Aegean's premier global network, we expect to expand our opportunities for long- term growth and strengthen our leading position in our core markets." Another move towards market consolidation took place at the beginning of June, when South Africa- based Grindrod announced that it was acquiring the Rotterdam- based Associated Bunker Oil Contractors ( ABC) group. As with the Aegean acquisition, ABC's existing senior management will continue in their management roles. The group is a well established physical supplier of marine bunker fuels, operating four bunker tankers in the ARA region. The ABC group is linked to the Vinotra Pool, a scheduler of bunker tanker delivery services in the ARA ports. Laurence Stuart- Hill, executive director of Grindrod Limited, said " The acquisition of ABC in Europe expands the recently established bunker barge business in South Africa. The expansion of our bunker barge business into Europe supports our strategy of expansion into international and niche market sectors". The two components of ABC, namely barge operations and physical supply will be separately managed by the shipping ( in respect of barge operations) and trading ( in respect of physical supply) divi-sions of the Grindrod Group. Hans Boer, shareholder and managing director of ABC said: " The acquisition by Grindrod Limited of the ABC group of companies will provide a major benefit to our customer base. They bring a level of expertise and experience that will complement and enhance our core services in both the trading and physical supply disciplines. I am confident that the acquisition will allow us to further improve our already excellent quality of service to our customers and grow our market share". International players move in One of the most significant changes in the long term may be the entry of Chinese company Brightoil into the ARA market. The com-pany announced early in 2010 that it intended to enter the market in the first half of the year, establishing a trading office in Rotterdam in April. According to Willian Chia, executive director at Brightoil, physical operations began during May using chartered barges. The company sells all grades of fuel oil except MGO. Information on sales volumes was not available at time of going to press. Lukoil Benelux has been consolidating its own operations in the region, closing its Amsterdam office at the beginning of August and centralising all commercial and operational matters to the Rotterdam office. The company is also working on obtaining a full bunker licence in order to be able to offer all products in the port of Antwerp, says Marco Buts. Lukoil will continue to operate its existing fleet of six barges under long- term timecharters. Another international company to expand its presence in the region was Petrobras, which opened an office in Rotterdam in February. Petrobras is an important player in the LSFO market, selling 850,000 tonnes a year, much of which is supplied to the bunker market. The Port of Rotterdam Authority estimates sales of low- sulphur bunkers at 15- 20% of the total bunker sales; between 2 and 2.5 million tonnes a year. Petrobras imports around 600,000 tonnes of product with a sulphur percentage of 0.8. This is blended with higher sulphur fuel up to the levels permitted by ECA requirements. Since May last year, Petrobras has also been selling locally- purchased HSFO; to be able to offer its clients a complete package, the company has been selling high- sulphur fuel oil since May. A view of Rotterdam harbour from the Euromast
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