VLSFO Sales See Dramatic Rise in Rotterdam

Mike Schuler
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December 10, 2019

Bunkering at the Port of Rotterdam. Photo: Freek van Arkel/Hollandse Hoogte

Low sulphur fuel is proving to be ‘extremely popular in Rotterdam, Europe’s largest bunkering hub, with more half of all November bunker sales attributable to 2020 compliant Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

The momentous shift comes with less than one month to go before the deadline for the IMO 2020 .5 percent sulphur cap. Under the new rules, the use of high-sulphur fuel by ships will only be permitted on vessels that have scrubbers installed on board. The current maximum sulphur content is 3.5 percent. 

According to the Port of Rotterdam, VLSFO sales increased dramatically over the past couple months, with September sales hitting 1,700 tonnes, October at 32,000 tonnes, and November at 95,000 tonnes.

These figures represent the dramatic rise of VLSFO as a percentage of Rotterdam’s total fuel oil sales, according to the port. “This means that the VLSFO percentage within total fuel oil sales grew from 1.8% in September to 51.6% in November,” the Port of Rotterdam Authority said in a statement.

The Port of Rotterdam is starting to track bunkering sales through its proprietary TimeToBunker app, which was launched in February and has been gaining traction ahead of the IMO 2020 deadline. The app allows customers to track fuel oil sulphur levels, unlike its traditional bunkering notifications.

“The TimeToBunker App has been used since February and is a huge success. Over a third of all bunkering notifications run via the app,” said Ronald Backer, Rotterdam’s bunkering expert. “I see no reason to assume that companies that still make standard bunkering notifications have completely different clients with completely different fuel oil purchasing behaviour.’

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