Brightoil Petroleum (Holdings), Shenzhen's largest fuel supplier to ocean vessels, plans to spend US$493 million on up to eight oil tankers to support business expansion. The company, majority controlled by entrepreneur and chairman Raymond Sit Kwong-lam, aims to raise the number of ports it covers to nine this year from four last year. It currently serves Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Ningbo and plans to expand to Singapore, Qingdao, Tianjin, Dalian and Xiamen. According to a company presentation last year, Singapore's bunker fuel sales volume is around 30 million tonnes a year, compared with only five million tonnes on the mainland. Dominance by a monopoly state-owned supplier was largely to blame for the lack of competitiveness of mainland ports in supplying fuel to international ocean-going vessels. Brightoil entered the marine bunkering business in 2006 when state-owned China Marine Bunker's monopoly was broken. Brightoil is the only private company among four firms which have licences to enter the business. After building up the necessary logistics facilities, Brightoil began supplying fuel to vessels in Shenzhen in July 2008, Hong Kong in April last year and Shanghai in June last year. Sit said Brightoil has just started sales in Singapore with monthly volume of 'dozens of thousands tonnes'. 'Singapore is a very competitive market, we hope to cut costs by acquiring our own fleet of tankers,' he told reporters ahead of a ceremony marking the delivery of a US$52.5 million, 107,500 million dead-weight-tonne oil tanker in Shenzhen. By buying up to eight tankers this year, the company's fleet could have a total annual capacity of 1.2 million dead-weight-tonnes, which translates to more than 10 million tonnes of fuel. Sit said now was an opportune time to buy tankers, as the global economic downturn meant prices have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade. He said 30 per cent of the spending on tankers would be financed by Brightoil's internal resources. It had around HK$1 billion of cash and bank deposits at the end of June last year after posting a pre-tax profit from operations of HK$464 million for the year to June. Sit said the company recorded a substantial rise in fuel sales volume in last year's first half but declined to provide figures. The company sold 1.8 million tonnes in the year to June.