Singapore - Trading companies Mercuria, Trafigura and United Arab Emirates-based GP Global have applied for licenses to supply marine fuel to ships in Singapore, the world’s top bunkering hub, three sources with knowledge of the matter said.
Their entry would further shake up a market that is increasingly becoming dominated by integrated companies with a role across the supply chain at the expense of smaller specialist firms providing marine fuels, known as bunkers.
It comes as the industry is adapting to new global rules from Jan. 1 mandating the use of low-sulfur fuels, which are attracting high premiums because of strong demand and limited supplies. The switch has also led to bottlenecks at major bunkering hubs, due to a shortage of refueling barges to cope with the changeover.
At least two China-based companies have also submitted bunkering applications to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). Applications closed at the end of January and may take more than two months to be processed, the sources said.
Singapore accounts for about 20% of a global ship refueling market that sells tens of billions of dollars a year of fuel. A Mercuria source confirmed that the company had applied for a license.
Trafigura, which said last year it planned to set up a bunkering joint venture called TFG Marine with two shipping companies, declined to comment. The Geneva-based firm is already the largest bunker fuel supplier in Africa.
GP Global and the MPA did not respond to a request for comment.
Any new licenses would be the first issued since 2017, MPA data showed. Tough market conditions and a crackdown on industry malpractice have seen the pool of suppliers in Singapore shrink in recent years, with mostly smaller players exiting.