Ship’s Fuel

Arranging fuel for ships is not a task to be undertaken lightly because lack of skill and attention could have adverse effects ranging from mere loss of profit to severe damage to the machinery even to total disaster. One can think in terms of three sub-headings for bunkering namely quantity, quality and cost but they are all inter-dependent. The operations department will explain the intended itinerary of the next voyage(s).  The quantity of fuel currently on board will be known and the voyage estimate will indicate the number of days steaming and in port for the voyage(s) concerned. Quantities will then depend on how the geography of the voyage coincides with suitable bunkering ports.  It may be necessary to adjust the route of the voyage(s) to enable the optimum choice of bunkering port to be used. It will be remembered that the most of the refining of crude oil into a usable state takes place close to the areas of consumption and not close to where the oil is produced. Thus as a general rule one may expect the keenest prices and widest choice where the larger refineries are located.  Such places as Rotterdam, New York, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro are typical of refineries close to high-density population and thus high consumption whilst places like Singapore and Gibraltar tend to be established as bunkering ports because of their strategic position relative to many different voyage routes. Many ships today are specialised and so tend to keep to the same routes and thus their bunkering patterns become well established.  Where, however, a general purpose “tramp” is involved, first-time voyages may be often occur and this is the stage that demands bunkering expertise. So many things have to be considered one against the other.  For example, every tonne of bunkers carried means one tonne less cargo that can be loaded.  Thus bunkering at the beginning of the voyage “for the round” may mean achieving the cheapest price, but this has to be balanced against the additional freight that could be earned if less bunkers are taken on.