This makes sense, as these are the “before” and “after” spots when circling the Cape of Good Hope. These two hubs seemed to replace the former Cape of Good Hope hot spot, which showed a 84% decrease when comparing the two time periods. Djibouti’s bunkering operations decreased by 27%, likely due to its proximity to Yemen, but the bunkering operations in the Saudi ports in the Red Sea remained the same.
Also, between October 2023 and January 2024 there has been a 50% increase in bunkering operations in East Asia and a 40% increase in bunkering ship-to-ship engagements in Europe, while there has been a 20% decrease in the Middle East.
Important reminder: bunkering deals can be concluded in as little as fifteen minutes, so organizations cannot reasonably stretch the sales process to an hour to conduct due diligence, without risking a lost opportunity.
While the developing hubs offer fresh business opportunities for some organizations, they significantly impact those who have relied on the consistency of traditional trade flows. Some advice for moving forward:
- Shipping companies or operators – this reshuffle can help you source better deals on bunker fuel. Perhaps go to places where the demand is lower to find a better deal.
- Bunkering companies – things are moving. Get your hands on real-time intelligence and make some calls to new prospects.
- Port authorities – don’t be unpleasantly surprised by using outdated data. Get real-time intelligence and direct your operations accordingly
Risk vs. Opportunity
The strategic and operational disruptions do not stop at bunkering. The new Red Sea reality made law-abiding vessels and crews go dark in attempts to avoid the Houthi threat. We’ve seen this phenomenon before, such as when vessels would disable their AIS to avoid Somali pirates, but the number of otherwise legitimate vessels that are currently utilizing this technique is noteworthy.
The weekly average of lost AIS transmissions in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea by cargo, tanker, and container vessels during January 2024 increased by 98%, 28%, and 66%, respectively, when compared to the weekly average of January 2023.
This trend also has an interesting geopolitical angle to it, as we look into dark and lost activities in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea for tanker vessels.
Chinese-owned (beneficial owner) tanker vessels were exhibiting lost AIS transmissions/dark activity at the beginning of the conflict, but far fewer in January. The opposite trend was noticed for vessels owned by European or Middle Eastern companies – as the conflict and the attacks progressed, these vessels engaged in more lost AIS/dark activities than at the beginning of the conflict.