Russia was the European Union’s biggest supplier of crude oil in the first six months of 2022, latest statistics show.

Between January and June 2022, the EU imported 223m tonnes of seaborne crude oil, up 15.3% year-on-year, according to shipbroker Banchero Costa.

Seaborne imports from Russia amounted to 59.6m tonnes between January and June this year, up 5.5% on the figure seen 12 months ago.

This accounted for 26.7% of volumes imported into the EU in the first six months of 2022, ahead of the North Sea with 17.1% and North Africa with 14.6%.

In early June, EU leaders agreed to ban the seaborne imports of Russian crude effective 5 December 2022 to punish the country for its invasion of Ukraine.

Until then, with no legal impediment to its purchases and few, if any alternatives to Russian crude, analysts say shipments are unlikely to decline significantly.

Shipments from the North Sea were up 27.1% year-on-year to 38.2m tonnes, while imports from North Africa were up by 6.1% year-on-year to 32.6m tonnes, despite a 14.5% year-on-year decline from Libya.

Shipments from West Africa to Europe were up by 33.3% year-on-year to 24m tonnes between January and June 2022, while imports from the US surged by 57.5% year-on-year to a new all-time record of 24.6m tonnes in the same period.

Direct shipments from the Middle East Gulf also rebounded sharply by 31.3% year-on-year to 11.7m tonnes, Bancosta said.

Last year, the 27 member states of the EU imported 402.5m tonnes of crude oil, up 3.5%, but still well below pre-Covid 19 levels.

The previous year imports totalled 388.8m tonnes, which represented a net decline of 12.8% year-on-year, compared to the 446m tonnes imported in 2019.

Bancosta said the EU has now once again emerged as the world’s largest seaborne importer of crude oil, after having been briefly overtaken by China in the period from 2019 to 2021.

Global crude oil loadings were up 11.4% year-on-year at 1.03bn tonnes in the first half of 2022, well above the 924m tonnes in the corresponding period last year, and marginally above the volumes seen in the same period of 2020.

Exports from Saudi Arabia were up 19.2% year-on-year to 169.7m tonnes in January to June 2022, almost back to pre-Covid levels, as are Russian shipments, which are up 16.9% to 112.8m tonnes.

Exports from the US have surged by a further 13.2% year-on-year to an all-time record of 74.2m tonnes.

However, some suppliers, such as Nigeria and Libya, are still struggling with supply issues, with shipments down 6.3% to 35.1m tonnes and down 21.1% to 20.2m tonnes, respectively.