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Ocean@ (Adds quote, background)
OSLO, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Trafigura Group is joining forces with shipping firms Frontline and Golden Ocean to set up a company to supply shipping fuels ahead of a shake up in regulations next year which could disrupt fuel delivery and cause prices to spike.
The three companies said on Tuesday that subject to agreement on final terms, the joint venture is expected to start operating in the third quarter.
From Jan. 1, International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules will bar many ships from using marine fuel, also called bunker fuel, containing more than 0.5% sulfur in order to help reduce air pollution. The current limit is 3.5%.
Vessels with exhaust cleaning systems, known as scrubbers, can continue to use high-sulfur fuels, but logistics become more complex when multiple bunker standards co-exist, shippers say.
"We believe ... the joint venture's increased base volumes and greater access to both infrastructure and credit will provide increasingly competitive bunkering supply services to our customers," Trafigura said.
"We are confident in our ability to supply quality products at competitive prices to the fleets controlled by the joint venture partners as well as to third party shipowners and operators," it added.
Dry bulk operator Golden Ocean and crude oil tanker firm Frontline are both controlled by Hemen Holding, the investment vehicle of Norwegian-born billionaire John Fredriksen.
"Our participation in the joint venture will ensure our ability to source and acquire marine fuels at competitive prices on a continuous basis," the two shipping firms said.
"This transaction represents yet another instance where we have been able to...create significant economies of scale and a real competitive advantage," they added.
Frontline and Golden Ocean will acquire 15% and 10% interests in the joint venture respectively and Trafigura will contribute its existing physical bunkering activities, the three companies said. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik; Editing by Susan Fenton and Kirsten Donovan)