Singapore: United Arab Emirates-based trader Gulf Petrochem is looking to expand into the Asian market by setting up a trading and bunkering desk in Singapore before the end of the year, the company's chief executive told Reuters.

Strong oil demand from Asia has prompted Middle Eastern oil majors as well as traders to expand operations in a market that is rapidly growing in contrast to the economic gloom in Europe and the United States.

"We will start fuel oil and distillates trading as well as bunkering out of Singa-pore," Sanjeev Sisaudia said late on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference.

"At the moment we have six people in Singapore mainly dealing with base oil. We're looking to hire 3-4 people until the end of the year," Sisaudia said, adding that the company will further expand its team in 2012.


As a sign of its ambitions in Asia, Gulf Petrochem, which is not a regular participant in Asian fuel oil spot tenders, won a semi-term fuel oil tender from India in early August.

"That was a strategic move," said Gulf Petrochem trader Kalrav Dixit, who was instrumental in securing the deal. "The idea was to position ourselves in the market."

An expansion of the draft at headquarters, the Hamriyah Free Zone, will allow the company to handle much larger vessels and bigger flows, Sisaudia said.

"Until now, the bottleneck for us was the 4.5 metre-long draught. This will now go up to 12 metres," he said.

As the company bets on handling larger volumes, it is also expanding oil storage facilities in the free-zone, where it has 60,000 cubic metres of oil storage.