A strike by bunker tanker owners in Busan has been averted after South Korea’s four oil refiners reached a deal with the shipowners’ trade association.
South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries has reported that the four national refiners – S-Oil, SK Innovation, Hyundai Oilbank and GS Caltex – have agreed to raise bunker tanker operating fees by 40-60% in the first half of next year.
On 21 September, the Korea Oil Supply Shipowners’ Association demanded a 350% hike in bunker tanker operating fees for fuelling ships in Busan. They claimed existing fees had not been raised for more than 20 years.
Busan is South Korea’s biggest and busiest port, catering mainly to container ships.
The association threatened that its members would suspend operations in Busan on 5 October if its demand was not met.
The impasse resulted in bunker prices going up from USD265.50/tonne on 30 September to USD276.50/tonne on 1 October, as fears of supply disruption grew.
Concerned with the impact on South Korea’s economy if bunkering operations were halted, the ministry and Busan Regional Oceans & Fisheries Administration facilitated a joint discussion with the refiners and the Korea Oil Supply Shipowners’ Association on 23 September and 2 October.
Oceans and fisheries minister Yoo Ki-joon personally steered the discussions, with co-operation from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Following this incident, the refiners and the Korea Oil Supply Shipowners’ Association have pledged to meet regularly to iron out issues.