The Mauritian government has been pushing hard for several years to take advantage of the island nation’s position to make it a hub for bunkering, and with Shell recently announcing that Port Louis would be one of its supply ports for VLSFO come 2020 and calls for Mauritius to move into LNG bunkering as well, things do seem to be moving.
To get a view from the ground, World Bunkering spoke to the managing director of Southbond Shipping Agency Ltd, Gulshan Jugroo.
WB: It’s been a tricky year in the wider sector; how have Mauritius and SSAL fared?
GJ: SSAL had a great, busy year last year, particularly with clients coming for repairs for long periods. Being a one-stop shop as a shipping agent gives our clients peace of mind, be it with accommodation, repair contractors, transport and even arranging for lunch catering for over 70 crew members for months. We have also an in-house travel agency where we provide seaman tickets to our clients’ sign on/offs. SSAL entertains good relationships with various hotel establishments and hence passes attractive corporate rates to our clients. We have 100% returning clients for the past 25 years.
With regards to the Mauritian sector, Port Louis has also had busy 2017–2018: cargo traffic has increased by 1.6% to reach 7.7 million tonnes. Bunkering in Port Louis also enjoyed an increase of 35.9% to reach over 550,000 tonnes. Cruise passengers visiting Port Louis reached 39,500, representing a 29.9% increase. The container sector also increased by 6.9%, mainly due to an increase in imports and also transshipments. There were approximately 3,250 ships calling at Port Louis during 2017–2018.
WB: Last time we spoke you’d been seeing owners shifting to sourcing bunker quotes from agents rather than bunker traders – has that continued?
GJ: I can only speak for SSAL and yes this trend has continued for us. Owners find that we offer better prices when we bid for spot prices. All is relative to the method
of payment. ‘Cash’ payment equals better prices.
WB: Are you continuing to see support from the MPA to boost Port Louis and its bunker industry?
GJ: There have not been any new storage facilities built since our last conversation. But the MPA is always trying to provide support to increase traffic. The bunker trade is a major segment that government and the MPA are actively promoting. It is estimated that some 35,000 vessels travel through our region each year, with less than 10% of ship traffic calling at Port Louis. Port Louis can capture more and more business with the increase of ship traffic in the region.
Bunkering services are carried out all year round by six local suppliers, Indian Oil, Vivo Energy, Total, Engen, Taylor Smith Bunkering and Bomin. Three grades of bunker fuel, namely MGO (DMA), IFO 180 cSt (RME) and IFO 380 cSt are currently available in Port Louis.
WB: What would you say the outlook for the coming year is?
GJ: In order to further develop the bunker trade at Port Louis, the MPA has allocated land in the port area to private promoters for the construction of additional storage facilities, which will increase the storage capacity ashore from its current levels of 145,000 tonnes to over 200,000 tonnes by mid–2018. The government has announced that it intends to construct a petroleum jetty which will be located in Albion.These facilities will position Port Louis as a petroleum hub for the region and as an ideal location to supply bunkers to passing vessels.
I have noted that some of our customers have requested the specs of fuel available in Mauritius as they need to adhere to their flag state requirements. Mauritius, I believe, is already ahead in the quality of fuel being supplied from here.
Also the port, being a signatory to the MARPOL convention, has been supportive to local companies being involved in sludge removal. The price offered has encouraged many vessel owners to offload their sludge and have their tanks cleaned here.
I’d encourage any vessel owner to request a quote from their agent for such services.
As regards to SSAL, we are continuing to deal directly with vessel owners with regards to their bunker and lube needs.Our high level of service is our pride, our word is our bond.