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BIMCO: US Crude Oil Exports to China Dropped to Zero in August

The brewing trade war between the global super powers, China and the United States, has led to a complete freeze of US seaborne exports of crude oil to China.

Even though crude oil was left out from the recent wave of tit-for-tat tariffs between the duo, the country’s seaborne exports of crude oil to China dropped to zero in August.

In 2017, Chinese imports accounted to 23% of total US crude oil exports. In 2018, that number was 22% during the first seven months.

“Chinese buyers, led by the world’s top tanker charterer Unipec, were rumoured to have stayed away – and new data proves it,” BIMCO said.

“Now rumors have it, that Chinese buyers returned in early October, data will eventually show if this is right and to what extent at a later stage.”

The latest data confirm the recent statement from the President of China Merchants Energy Shipping Co (CMES) Xie Chunlin, who said that the Chinese imports of US crude oil completely stopped.

“The tanker shipping industry is hurt when distant US crude oil export destinations like China, are swapped for much shorter hauls into the Caribbean and South, North and Central America. The trade war is all around us now. What appeared on the horizon half a year ago is now impacting many seaborne trading lanes. All commodities may be impacted regardless of them being officially tariffed or not. What we see in terms of crude oil transport, is harmful to the global shipping industry as well as cumbersome to the exporters and importers of the product,” BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst Peter Sand comments.

US crude oil exports to any other destination were record high, BIMCO’s data shows. Total US crude oil exports excluding China hit a new all-time high in September at 6.96 million tonnes.

Exports to Asia jumped in June and July, from a 43% share of total exports since the start of 2017 to reach a 56% share. In August that share fell back to 46%.

The two other major importing regions are Europe (26%) and North and Central America (18%), while South America (5%), Caribbean (2%) and Others (4%) make up the rest.

“For the crude oil tanker shipping industry distances often matter more than volumes. Even though volumes were record high, tonne-mile demand dropped by 19% from July to August due to the shift in trade patterns. Exports to Asia are by far the most important. When measuring the tanker demand in tonnes-miles (TM), exports of US crude oil to Asia generated 70% of TM-demand on that trade in August– down from 78% in June and 75% in July,” Sand added.