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Trafigura, Mercuria switch bunkering to Mauritius amid attacks, tax dispute

(Reuters) - With more ships heading around the Cape of Good Hope due to attacks in the Red Sea region and a shutdown in their main South African bunkering operations, Mercuria and Trafigura have started refueling services in Mauritius, four sources said.

The two trading houses have opened operations in Port Louis to compensate for the shutdown at South Africa's Algoa Bay which stems from a tax dispute with authorities, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Algoa Bay is South Africa's only offshore ship-to-ship bunkering zone where tankers service passing ships at anchorage.

South African tax authorities have detained vessels and suspended offshore refueling operations for bp, Mercuria's Minerva Bunkering and Trafigura's Heron Marine pending an audit.

That has prompted ships taking the longer Cape of Good Hope route to use Port Louis or Walvis Bay in Namibia instead.

Trafigura confirmed it started operations in Mauritius in February after it formed a venture with local bunkering firm Groupe Roland Maurel.

"Demand for bunkering services in Port Louis have increased in recent months due to the disruption to shipping routes caused by the Red Sea situation," a TFG (Trafigura) Marine spokesperson said.

Mercuria has partnered up with Engen Mauritius, part of Malaysia's Petronas, according to a local shipping agent who asked not to be identified as he is not allowed to speak to the press.

Mercuria and Engen Mauritius did not respond to requests for comment.

Yemen's Houthi militants have attacked dozens of vessels with drones and missiles since November in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden. Last week the Rubymar cargo became the first ship to sink following an attack.

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