(Updates with official comment)
SINGAPORE, March 12 (Reuters) - More than half of a South Korea-based marine fuel trading team taken on by Swiss trading house Mercuria following the collapse of OW Bunker has left after just over three months, two trading sources said on Thursday.
The nine traders who have left are now in talks to join World Fuel Services, the largest marine fuel trader in South Korea after OW Bunker's bankruptcy, the sources familiar with the matter said.
Despite the dent in its South Korean team's strength, Mercuria said it planned to continue expanding its marine fuel business, Minerva, with more hirings.
"We will recruit 20 to 40 specialists in Asia this year. We will continue to build and put support behind our South Korea, Singapore and Japan offices. We are also committed to expand in the United States, China and Europe," its spokesman said on Thursday.
WFS could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mercuria absorbed nearly 40 people from OW Bunker, which had controlled around 7 percent of the global shipping fuel market, including 15 staff in South Korea and a team in Singapore as it looked to beef up its marine fuel, or bunker fuel, business.
The teams joined Mercuria's stand-alone unit Minerva, which specialises in marine fuel, but nine of the South Korea employees had now left, the sources said.
They included manager Joon Kim and five senior traders overseeing the South Korea, Japan and Chinese markets.
Kim was expected to be joined by three administrative staff, one of the sources added.
OW Bunker filed for bankruptcy in Denmark in November after revealing losses of at least $125 million.
South Korea sells up to 600,000 tonnes of marine fuel a month, about a fifth of monthly sales in Singapore, the world's top bunkering hub. (Reporting by Jane Xie; Editing by Richard Pullin and Mark Potter)