Canada’s crude exports from its extended Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX) are quickly nearing full capacity, with 22 tankers booked to load at the Vancouver terminal this month.

Operator Trans Mountain said the pipeline is running at around 80% of its 890,000-barrel-per-day maximum after launching on 1 May.

Chief financial and strategy officer Mark Maki told Reuters a “little bit” of spot capacity is also being used.

The $25bn extension brings crude from Alberta to the Pacific coast.

The current 80% flows are reserved for long-term contracts with cargo buyers.

“We’re basically running at effectively right around contract level with a little bit of spot on the system,” Maki said, adding that volumes were expected to rise towards winter.

He added 22 tankers are scheduled to load at the Westridge dock, which can take ships up to aframax size.

Loadings there used to run at one or two a month but could hit one aframax per day, marking a big change to trading patterns in the Pacific.

Traders and shipping sector observers had wondered whether loadings would top 20 per month due to fears over logistical constraints at the port.

But Maki said the terminal is performing well.

Transfers taking place

“The dock facility is working as we’d expected. There are a few things of course you’ve got to break in and get running right, but we’re happy with where we’re at,” he added.

Meanwhile, the first ship-to-ship transfers of crude loaded at TMX have taken place in the Pacific Area Lightering zone (PAL) off the coast of California, as cargoes are combined onto bigger ships for longer-haul exports.

Sea World Management’s 107,500-dwt aframax Sea Voyager (built 2009) took a cargo on 1 June and has now moved this on to AET’s 320,000-dwt VLCC Eagle Verona (built 2013), according to Kpler.

The Eagle Verona was 75% full after taking on crude at the Pacific Terminal in Panama.

Advantage Tankers’ 116,000-dwt aframax Advantage Award (built 2011) also took part in an STS operation at PAL involving its 298,000-dwt sister VLCC Advantage Value (built 2009), which was in ballast.