Indian ports have introduced precautionary measures to control the escalating COVID-19 pandemic, but these have not disrupted loading and discharge operations of LPG and other oil product shipments, trade and ship broking sources said.

“There has been no berthing restrictions as of now at any LPG port due to COVID-19,” one importer said.

The measures include night lockdowns at ports such as Kandla, lockdowns by the Mundra local municipality, strict lockdown imposed until May 1 in Mumbai and JNPT, night curfew in Goa until end-April, night curfew in Mangalore, night curfew in Tamil Nadu state, night curfew in Visakhapatnam, night curfew in some districts in Kakinada, night curfew and lockdown in Paradip, and night curfew in Krishnapattanam, shipping sources said.

While in Kandla, technicians or crew change is permitted, COVID-19 test reports must be received within a minimum of up to 35-48 hours from the time samples are received at the lab.

In Hazira, where Surat city is having a huge number of COVID-19 positive cases, all terminals have become very strict on entry of outsiders in port areas, including surveyors, inspectors and technicians, sources said. No family visits are allowed and visitors are required to hand carry valid RT-PCR Negative Report, with prior permission for port entry.

Though Mumbai is seeing rising COVID-19 cases, shipping movements remain unaffected and boarding restrictions have not yet been implemented.

Shipping movements are also not affected at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, or JNPT, ship broking sources said.

“I do not think this will have a big impact on LPG shipping, as LPG is an essential service and a politically very sensitive fuel,” another trade source said.

Directives received from the Indian Ministry of Shipping have declared all ports as essential services, for maintenance of uninterrupted supply chain link, within the country’s port ecosystem.

In view of some restrictions imposed, shipping sources highlighted the Essential Services Maintenance Act covering all port-related activities as essential services.

These mean that port operations will continue round-the-clock and that it is imperative to have the services of port officials, employees, operators of private terminals, shipping lines, agents, operators, shippers/exporters, importers and staff engaged in technical support of vessels, including surveyors, inspectors and private laborers engaged in various port activities. These staff will be allowed to move freely during the day and night when the night curfew is in force in all states.

LPG CARGOES FROM MIDDLE EAST, US

According to shipping reports: one Very Large Gas Carrier has berthed at Kandla since April 26, and two are waiting since April 28; one VLGC has berthed at JNPT since April, one waiting to berth and one expected to arrive May 8. At New Mangalore, two VLGCs were berthing on April 26 and 29; one at anchorage; and two due to arrive end-April to early May, while off Ennore one VLGC is waiting May 1-2 and another expected to arrive May 6-7. At Vizag, one VLGC is at berth and another at anchorage, while four VLGCs are due at Haldia over April 29-May 4; one at anchorage April 30 and another has departed April 28.

The importers are state-run Indian Oil Corp., BPCL and HPCL, while the Middle Eastern exporters are Saudi Aramco, Qatar Petroleum, Kuwait Petroleum Corp. and ADNOC.

Shipments during the period included two mixed propane/butane cargoes from Houston, reflecting India’s continued import of CFR cargoes from the US, which began to export directly to India in April 2019.

Ship broking sources described the LPG vessel queue at Indian ports as normal.

“Most Very Large Gas Carriers and medium-sized Gas Carriers discharge at a minimum two or three ports. Currently, there is no impact of the COVID surge in India at ports,” a ship broker said.

“We have been following up on port activities very closely for various products including crude, LPG, oil products and other cargoes. So far the operations are running smoothly as usual without any disruptions or delays.”

IOC last week bought by tender 45,000 mt of evenly split LPG for H2 June delivery at a premium in the low-$30s/mt to the Saudi Contract Prices, after buying via its first spot tender for this year a 44,000 mt evenly split cargo for May 11-31 delivery, CFR, east coast of India basis.

Source: Platts