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Tanker owner Euronav’s ULCC Oceania, which has been deployed to store and blend bunker fuels ahead of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s new rules on global sulphur caps, is expected to receive a fuel oil shipment this week, Vortexa data show.

The ultra large crude carrier (ULCC) has been sitting offshore Malta since 12 January.

Vortexa analysts reported in a previous note on 15 February that it had been lined up for bunker fuel operations.

Recent shipping fixtures showed that Euronav chartered the handymax tanker STI Brixton to load 30,000mt of fuel oil from Antwerp in early March for delivery to the Mediterranean. The tanker subsequently loaded from one of Antwerp’s Sea Tank Terminals (STT) on 9 March and is heading towards Malta.

It is due to reach the ULCC Oceania imminently, and can be expected to discharge via ship-to-ship transfer before the end of this week. This is the first observed shipment of fuel oil heading to the ULCC.

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Euronav was heard to have picked up at least three fuel oil cargoes recently. The timing of deliveries into the ULCC may strike some as premature, given the current backwardated structure for high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO). However, recent price indications for the new 0.5% grade show much more favourable storage economics.

Liquidity for swaps reflecting the differential between 0.5% fuel oil and HSFO has improved. And as a result, swaps prices can be used to yield a $2.68/mt contango per month for 0.5% fuel oil between April 2019 and April 2020, according to Vortexa calculations. This goes some way to subsidise the monthly storage bill and financing costs. Storing oil near breakeven suggests Euronav anticipates a sharp price increase in the future that will more than cover these costs and add a margin.

The start of bunker fuel operations on Euronav’s ULCC could also spark a trend of similar activity emerging elsewhere across European and Asian bunkering hubs.

First published on LinkedIn on 19 March

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