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In spite of falling global bunker demand in the first three months of the year due to the major slowdown in world trade flows as a result of coronavirus, Q1 2020 bunker volumes at the Port of Rotterdam showed a quarter-on-quarter gain to reach 2.37 million cubic metres (cbm) – the highest quarterly total since Q1 2018.

In Q1 2020, fuel oil sales at Rotterdam totalled 1.904 million cbm, up on the 1.900 million cbm recorded in Q4 2019.

For the first time, the Port of Rotterdam has provided a breakdown of fuel grades within the fuel oil banding. Looking at the split between high and low sulphur product, there were Q1 2020 gains by very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) and a demand fall-off for high sulphur fuel oil.

In Q1 this year, HSFO accounted for 609,203 cbm (Q4 2019: 693, 283 cbm) of fuel oil sales, VLSFO, 989,956 cbm (Q4 2019: 853,272 cbm) and ultra-low sulphur fuel oil, 304,602 cbm cbm (Q4 2019: 231,094 cbm).

Marine gasoil volumes were 381,148 cbm compared to 366,032 cbm in Q1 2019, while marine diesel oil volumes totalled 65,131 cbm, a significant increase from the 22,197 cbm posted in Q1 last year.

In another first, the Port has also provided information on the percentage of bio-bunkers in its total fuel oil volumes . These fuels are a mix of fuel oil and biocomponents, although there is no information on the blending ratios. In Q4 2020, these fuels accounted for 3% of overall fuel oil volumes and this has risen to 11% in Q1 2020, which to a large degree reflects the growing number of biofuel pilot tests and commercial initiatives taking place at Rotterdam.

Lubes sales also held up well in Q1, totalling 21,401 cbm, the highest quarterly figure since Q3 2018.

Rotterdam’s Q1 statistics also provide a useful snapshot on how the port has come through the IMO 2020 transition. Its position as the world’s fuel oil hub and cheapest location to lift bunkers was said to be under threat by many industry experts in the run up to 2020. Judging by Rotterdam’s first quarterly bunker volume stats and bunker prices across the three months, the port is more than holding its own as one of the preeminent global bunker hubs.

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