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SINGAPORE: Asia’s 0.5% very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) extended losses on Wednesday as ample supplies and sluggish bunker demand in the Singapore hub weighed on near-term sentiment, trade sources said.

Fresh crew change restrictions in Singapore following a jump in local COVID-19 infections as well as lower bunker prices in China, have weighed on the outlook for spot marine fuel demand at the Singapore bunkering hub, trade sources said.

Despite a continued absence of physical deals in the Singapore window, the VLSFO cash differential fell to minus $1.05 a tonne to Singapore quotes on Wednesday, down from minus 42 cent per tonne premium on Monday, amid more aggressive supplier offers.

The cash differential was last lower on Dec. 21.

The balance-of-May/June VLSFO time spread also weakened, falling to a discount of about $0.75-$1 per tonne, down from about minus 25 cents in the previous session, according to broker sources.

Meanwhile, fuel oil inventories in the Fujairah bunkering and storage hub fell 2% in the week ended May 3, retreating from an eight-month high touched in the week before, data released on Wednesday showed.

Weaker interregional exports and rising seasonal demand for residual fuels in power generation weighed on Fujairah fuel oil inventories, trade sources said.

Fujairah bunker demand, however, was sluggish, the sources said.

Fujairah Oil Industry Zone inventories for heavy distillates and residues fell by 221,000 barrels, or about 35,000 tonnes, to 14.85 million barrels, or 2.34 million tonnes, data via S&P Global Platts showed.

Still, Fujairah’s fuel oil inventories were 2% higher than year-ago levels.

According to the latest assessments by Refinitiv Oil Research, exports from the UAE rose marginally in the week to 240,000 tonnes in the week ended May 2, up by about 30,000 tonnes from the prior week.

The UAE’s export activity in the second quarter eased relative to a strong first quarter with “monthly loading volumes for April fell to 1.227 million tonnes in April from 1.57 million tonnes in March,” according to the assessments.

“No Iranian fuel oil exports have yet been detected for the reporting period. Overseas arrivals of Iranian fuel oil currently stand at 620,000 tonnes for April, down from 812,000 tonnes in March,” according to Refinitiv Oil Research.

India’s Nayara Energy offered a 40,000 tonne cargo of 40-cst to 70-cst VLSFO with a maximum 0.5 sulphur content loading from Vadinar over June 1-5 in a tender closing on May 6.

Maersk said on Wednesday it expects an “exceptionally strong” performance in the first quarter to continue for the rest of the year, driven by high demand for shipping containers from China to the United States.

“Strong demand led to bottlenecks as well as lack of capacity and equipment which drove up freight rates to record high levels,” Chief Executive Soren Skou said in a statement.

Those factors prompted Maersk last week to raise its outlook for full-year underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to $13 billion to $15 billion from $8.5 billion to $10.5 billion. It also lifted its forecast for global container demand growth to 5%-7% from 3%-5%.