(Reuters) – Four Singapore-based marine fuel traders have resigned from BP, the largest bunker player in the oil and shipping hub, which comes after most of the oil major’s global fuel oil team members quit, three industry sources said on Thursday.
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The four, including the head of the Asia bunker division and two senior traders who have been with BP for up to 10 years, tendered their resignation letters late last week and are serving notice.
In contrast, the fuel oil traders have physically left the company and are on three months’ gardening leave.
When contacted, a BP spokeswoman declined to comment.
“We do not comment on employees’ movements,” she said.
The resignations left BP’s bunker team, which handles small lots of residue fuel for supply to ships, with a staff of just two or three support personnel.
The latest departures brought the number of resignations from BP’s fuel oil and bunker fuel teams to 18. The fuel oil team, which handles larger cargo trades, is left with two traders on its Asia team — one trading physical cargoes and the other doing swaps.
Clive Christison, BP’s Director and CEO of its Eastern Hemisphere Integrated Supply & Trading division, recently confirmed the resignations of fuel oil traders but said the number was not as many as reported.
Christison said the earlier departures had not affected the firm’s fuel oil trading activities, adding that it still has a strong fuel oil team.
BP also supplies marine fuels in major Asian ports, including Hong Kong, China and South Korea.
“It looks like the exodus is continuing. But at least the outgoing personnel will serve a month’s notice before leaving, unlike the fuel oil traders, and leave less of a vacuum in the market,” a Singapore-based bunker supplier said.
“But they would have to be replaced quickly and with equally capable people because BP is the largest volume seller in the market and has been for the last three years.”
TOP BUNKER PLAYER
The oil major has been listed by Singapore’s Maritime Port Authority (MPA) as the largest volume seller with an estimated 400,000 tonnes per month. Singapore is the world’s top bunkering port, handling monthly bunker volumes averaging 3.2-3.3 million tonnes.
BP is also one of the most active and profitable fuel oil trading firms in Asia, regularly mounting trading plays involving a few million tonnes of swaps and physical cargoes.
The large bunker volumes the company handles provide a convenient market outlet for the physical cargoes that it accumulates in the course of its bull trading plays, traders said.
“The cargo-trading team and the bunker division work very closely together, more than most other oil majors. Most, if not all, of the supply for their bunker business comes from the cargo side,” a fuel oil trader said.
“The cargo guys provide the volumes and dictate the pricing for the bunker team to market.”
Traders said they would not be surprised if the bunker traders who quit end up in the same company as the former BP fuel oil traders.
The former global head of fuel oil trading Quek Chin Thean, who left more than two weeks ago, had also been the head of BP’s marine fuels division.
In all, five of its fuel oil traders and four support staff in Asia, three traders in the U.S. and its team leader in Europe, have resigned in the past one month.
The nine from Asia and its U.S. team leader are joining Hong Kong-listed Brightoil, an ambitious China-based company that has been expanding its trading capabilities over the past one year, trade sources said.
Brightoil is growing its monthly volumes to about 250,000-300,000 tonnes this year, up from 150,000-200,000 tonnes.
(Editing by Ramthan Hussain)