Marine Fuel Prices Rise and Use of “Scrubbers” Widen Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Prices in ship fuel are now rising compared to its downward trend last year due to the global pandemic.

Prices in ship fuel are now rising compared to its downward trend last year due to the global pandemic.

This year also led to the increasing use of cheaper high-sulfur fuel with the help of ‘scrubbers’.

‘Scrubbers’ are “equipment allowing ships to legally burn cheaper, high-sulfur fuel,” according to the American Shipper.

Head of oil pricing and trade flow analytics at S&P Global Platts Richard Joswick said, “The crude price is going up. That’s what’s responsible for the increase in bunker [marine] fuel prices more than anything else.”

The International Maritime Organization required that ships without scrubbers can only burn very low sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO) or marine gas oil (MGO). They cannot burn high sulfur fuel oil (HSFO).

The price of VLSFO rose by 43% in the period between November 2 and January 14, while HSFO increased by 32%, based on the data from Ship & Bunker.

Due to the increase, ship owners are now looking at scrubbers which allow ships to earn more compared to ships without. 

Joswick said that ship fuel prices will increase in 2021 and that prices would be higher if not for the coronavirus restrictions on air travel. 


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