South Africa Struggles to Absorb Bitumen Cargoes
10.27.2023 By Tank Terminals - NEWS

October 27, 2023 [Argus]- Several tankers carrying a total of around 30,000t of bitumen are being held outside the port of Durban, South Africa, as suppliers of the shipments struggle to find homes for their volumes.


With the South African road paving season that started in September consuming less bitumen than many local players had anticipated, the domestic and regional markets are increasingly unable to absorb the scale of imports.

Incoming tankers, most of them loaded in the Mideast Gulf or Red Sea, have been kept out of Durban port, with their scheduled berthing dates pushed back several days. They include the 5,887dwt Saagar and the 7,917dwt Cheng X that arrived at Durban on 9 and 5 October, respectively, after loading at UAE storage/loading points. Both tankers are still held outside Durban, with the possibility that one of them could berth and begin ship to truck delivery into Durban this weekend.

The 12,780dwt San Du Ao, which also arrived at Durban around 9 October, with a cargo loaded at Izmit, Turkey, is similarly yet to discharge, as is the 7,226dwt Ianthe that has been waiting outside Durban since 19 October with the inaugural cargo loaded at the Saudi Aramco-Luberef export terminal at Yanbu on the Red Sea.

Local South African sales could only be agreed for around 1,500t of a total 6,500t cargo on board the 7,917dwt Tai Hua Wan — loaded at the Bapco export terminal at Sitra, Bahrain — when it arrived at Durban and completed that partial discharge earlier this month. The vessel is scheduled to re-enter the port and deliver its remaining volumes on 1-4 November.

One tanker cleared to deliver part of its cargo is the 15,000dwt Rubis Asphalt tanker Bitu River, which is in the process of discharging 3,500t into Durban after loading at the firm’s west African terminal hub at Lome, Togo, and discharging a part-cargo into Luanda, Angola.

The destination of a cargo to be loaded on the 7,995dwt Jastella at Yanbu is yet to be disclosed, with South Africa a candidate.

According to Vortexa data compiled earlier this month, total bitumen cargo imports into South Africa for the first 10 months of 2023 were projected at around 185,000t. That compares with 96,000t imported in the whole of 2022 and just 10,000t in 2021 when imports into Durban and Cape Town were triggered by a series of South African refinery closures that have cut domestic bitumen production to minimal levels.

The 107,000 b/d Sasol/TotalEnergies joint venture Natref refinery in Sasolburg is the only remaining bitumen-producing facility in the country.

A new 7,500t capacity Durban bitumen terminal, for the first time enabling direct ship-to-tank deliveries at the port, should begin to ease congestion issues. The terminal, being built by South African fuel storage firm FFS Refiners, is expected to be commissioned in December and receive its first cargo in January.


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