Flotilla of Tankers Takes Russian Oil Through Suez Canal to Asia
Russia’s seaborne crude exports from its western ports to Asian countries, predominantly India and China, rebounded to more than 1 million barrels a day and could rise higher when destinations are finalized. In the east, flows of the Sokol grade have dried up with sanctions starting to bite.
Overall crude shipments were virtually unchanged in the seven days to May 13 though, as European Union nations continue to wrangle over a planned ban on Russian oil imports in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
A total of 35 tankers loaded about 24.9 million barrels from Russian export terminals, according to vessel-tracking data and port agent reports collated by Bloomberg. That put average seaborne crude flows at 3.55 million barrels a day, down by less than 0.5% against 3.56 million barrels a day in the week ended May 6.
Long-haul voyages were a feature of the latest data. Eight tankers that loaded crude at Russia’s western ports in the week showed destinations in Asia, with another four heading for the Suez Canal. That’s up from a combined five vessels in the previous week.
Russia exports crude from four main areas: the Baltic Sea in northwest Europe, the Black Sea, the Arctic, and terminals on its Pacific Coast.
The weekly shipment figures can swing depending on the timing of when tankers depart, which is also heavily influenced by the weather at ports — as has been the case for the past several weeks.
Flows of Urals crude from terminals in the Baltic rose in the week to May 13 by 313,000 barrels a day, or 20%, reversing the previous week’s loss. The increase was partly offset by lower volumes from the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk and from Murmansk, which handles crude produced along Russia’s Arctic coastline. Daily shipments from Novorossiysk fell by 40,000 barrels and from Murmansk by 72,000 barrels.
Meanwhile, shipments from the country’s three eastern terminals on its Pacific Ocean coast fell sharply, giving up most of the previous week’s increase, falling by 205,000 barrels a day, or 20%. Shipments of Sokol crude from the Sakhalin-1 project appear to have halted.
Opinions are divided on whether the European Union will succeed in imposing a ban Russian oil imports in the face of continued opposition from Hungary. Some EU nations are saying it may be time to consider delaying a push to embargo Russia’s supplies so they can proceed with the rest of a proposed sanctions package. But Germany plans to stop importing the country’s oil by the end of the year even if the EU fails to agree on a ban.
The EU’s proposal seeks to end crude oil purchases over the next six months and refined fuels by early January. The bloc offered Hungary and Slovakia until the end of 2024 to comply with the sanctions and the Czech Republic until June of the same year as they are heavily reliant on Russian crude, but that has not been enough to placate Hungary. Talks are continuing.