Gulf war threatens Durban bunker supplies

Mar 10, 2003
Author: P&S


A severe shortage of bunker fuel at the port of Durban is impacting on ship movements, and Ships and Ports has received several indications of ship departures being considerably delayed with other vessels forced to go elsewhere to obtain fuel. Last week (3-8 March 2003 period) reports were received of several container ships being delayed in port, including MSC Clorinda and one of the Messina Ignazio ro-ro vessels.

The Association of Shipping Lines (ASL) has now taken the matter up with the Durban refineries and the subject will also be raised at the next bunker forum meeting on March 18. In the meantime however anxious ship operators remain concerned over repeated shortages.

According to several reports the problems relate to maintenance and shutdowns with the pipelines feeding the ships at several berths in the port. Particularly affected are berths 108 to 205 at the container terminal, which have been down for maintenance repairs, forcing ships to rely on hard-pressed bunker barges.

In a written response to questions raised by Ports and Ships an unnamed Sapref spokesman confirmed that at 5am last Wednesday (5 March) bunker fuels from the refinery ran out, with supplies only resuming later in the day.

“The interruption was due to high bunker demand and lower than normal production levels,” said the Sapref spokesman.

He added that Sapref was unaware of any ships being stranded in port and always prioritised bunkering activities according to departure schedules.

Increased threats of war in the Gulf had resulted in a higher than normal bunker demand over the previous two weeks.

“At the same time our production levels have been lower than usual. These two factors have led to the interruption in supply, as we had to wait for product to be tested and batched. While it is true that a section of the pipeline supplying the container terminal is currently under maintenance, this is not adversely affecting operations as we are using a bunker barge to bunker the ships.”

He said that the supply problem at Durban was having no effect on Richards Bay as the Dolphin Coast, which transports marine fuel oil between Durban and Richards Bay, was continuing to operate as normal.

He denied reports that an export ship was loaded in recent weeks at the expense of other ships in port.

“Export decisions are taken six weeks in advance depending on the prevailing supply and demand situation. Delivery was delayed by seven days while giving priority to local bunkers.”


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