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Local bunkering operation expands

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2015 | 9:21 AM

West Indies Petroleum (WIP) has bought a second tug and barge for its bunkering operations.

The new vessels, which arrived from Beaumont, Texas in August, increase WIP's on-water capacity from 4,000 tonnes to 12,000 tonnes.

"With the expected increase in the size and volume of ships coming through local ports due to the widening of the Panama Canal, WIP's expansion is strategically timed to help to propel Jamaica in realising its potential to become the logistics hub of the Caribbean," said a statement issued by the company.

More specifically, WIP is eyeing growth in supplying vessels passing by Jamaica at a rendezvous point miles offshore. It is also expecting to see business increase on the north coast.

The company has already secured a bunkering agreement to supply the Louis Crystal, which homeports in Montego Bay. WIP also landed a deal to supply MSC Cruise's upcoming Cuba tour which will depart from Montego Bay on Saturdays.

The cruise ships are fuelled by tank wagons that are trucked to the north coast, while the new tug and barge will operate in Kingston for now.

WIP currently provides marine fuel to around 10 per cent of the 3,500 ships calling on Jamaica's ports each year.

The locally owned company started operations two years ago when it acquired a tug and a barge, along with a turnkey crew, from state-owned refinery Petrojam to supply fuel to ships entering Kingston Harbour.

Bunker sales by the state-run refinery brought in US$150 million in revenue in the year to March 2014, according to Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica's most recent annual report.

This was US$5 million lower than the previous year, but it reflected an increase volume from 1.52 million barrels in the year to March 2013 to 1.53 million barrels the following year.

WIP's main competitor in Jamaica is Greece-based Aegean Marine Petroleum, which established operations in Kingston 10 years ago.

Aegean, which operates one double hull tanker ship and which services customers in Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, had previously earmarked its own expansion plans which would include the construction of a land-based storage facility at a property in Rockfort that it had acquired in early 2010.

No further announcements on the project were made since, but the company said the property may be used to create inland storage totalling 80,000 cubic metres (500,000 barrels).

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that WIP has an arrangement with Louis Crystal and not Thomson Cruises.