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Renewed impetus

While one established refiner and supplier closes down other players are on the expansion trail in the Caribbean, John Rickards reports

The impetus in recent years to see the Caribbean bunker sector make the most of the various countries’ position near the main trades in and out of the Panama Canal and on plum cruise routes from the US doesn’t seem to have slowed with the oncoming IMO 2020 changes drawing near.

The big international mover has undoubtedly been Bunker One, which has been very keen to expand its physical supply operations. At the end of last year, it chartered two bunker tankers from Aegean – having already seen operations management personnel, including the company’s new managing director for the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Georgia Kounalakis, make the same jump – in order to supply Jamaican ports, offshore Jamaica and Trinidad.


Speaking at the time, the company’s global director Peter Zachariassen said: “Again we have shown agility and prompt decision power by employing two tankers with extensive operation experience in the area – and taken on a team of industry professionals. We believe that there are substantial synergies to be captured with our existing footprint in the US, the Gulf of Mexico and South America – ensuring our leadership position leading into 2020.“


This summer, the company expanded again, adding a further bunker tanker capable of carrying 5,500 tonnes of HFO and 1,300 tonnes of MGO to its fleet to launch physical supply operations at Freeport Bahamas, both in the outer anchorage and offshore.


Kounalakis said: “The continued growth of our physical supply platform will allow our customers flexibility and choice in their fuel purchasing requirements as we enter 2020, creating efficient ‘bunkers only’ port calls.”


Likewise, Sol Petroleum, which already has a barge operating in Nassau, Bahamas and offers ex-pipe or truck supplies across most of the southern Caribbean, added a tanker late last year to serve offshore Trinidad and Grenada. As of this summer, it says it is now on track to offer bunkers offshore Guyana and Suriname.


Sol Group bunker manager Kirk King said: “Sol adheres to the strictest international standards and will be a premier provider of IMO2020 compliant fuels at multiple ports in the region. We continue to maintain our excellent record of reliability and quality, and plans are on stream to expand our OPL offer to offshore Guyana/Suriname.”


Sol was 75% bought out by Canada’s Parkland Fuel Corporation late last year for US$1.21bn, with Parkland’s CEO remarking on its “unparalleled regional scale”.


Sol founder Sir Kyffin Simpson said: “I am truly confident that this coming together with the fantastic team at Sol will be a complementary blend of cultures, ideas, technology and innovation. I am convinced that Parkland and Sol are perfectly matched to develop new and exciting opportunities, with renewed energy that will provide excellent avenues for the development of our people that will in turn enhance our customer experience and open new doors for great synergies and improved logistics. With forty-three million people and a GDP of more than US$200 billion, this is the perfect time to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that abound in the Caribbean.”

Such expansion and investment efforts should be welcomed by ship operators in the region, given the slow progress or outright abandonment of various state-run projects in storage, supply or refining.


There’s been no movement on efforts to upgrade or replace George Town’s creaking storage infrastructure, for instance – a project long-mooted and since dropped by the Cayman Islands government.


Petrotrin’s long struggles with financial losses and creaking production and delivery infrastructure finally came to a head last year. Trinidad’s government shuttered the company, intending to carve it up for sale, as covering its debts and providing the company with the investment needed to bring its operations up to spec would have bankrupted the country. The loss of Petrotrin’s refinery capacity could have seen supply levels called into question, so other suppliers stepping up with fuel sourced from elsewhere is a welcome move.


Petrotrin was shut down in November 2018 and replaced by three companies – Heritage Petroleum, Paria Fuel Trading and Guaracara Refining. As World Bunkering went to press the proposed sell-off of the former Petrotrin entities remained
a political hot potato.


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