New shipping data has revealed just how much more Russian crude is heading to India following the invasion of Ukraine.

A report from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows India’s seaborne crude imports surpassed 4.8m barrels per day (bpd) in April, the highest on record.

This was due to more barrels coming into the country from Russia, but also the Middle East, displacing cargoes from further afield, such as the US, Canada and West Africa.

Russian-origin crude hit 5% of India’s total seaborne imports last month for the first time, rising from less than 1% through the whole of 2021 and the first quarter of this year.

However, Iraq remained the top supplier to India, with flows stable at 1.2m bpd.

As of 9 May, tankers had discharged almost 10m barrels of crude loaded in Russia in the last month, including 970,000 barrels of Kazakhstan’s CPC blend, which has some Russian crude content.

S&P reported another 16 vessels with 13m barrels on board are currently indicating India as their destination.

They are expected to arrive within the next four weeks.

The cargoes include one of CPC blend and one of Siberian Light, with the rest Urals crude.

The price is right

Yen Ling Song, associate director at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said: “A rebound in domestic demand as well as stronger oil product exports likely spurred India’s crude import volumes.

“Refiners have been highly attracted to discounts for Russian-origin cargoes and India has been a major alternative destination for Urals crude that would typically have been sold to refiners in Europe,” the analyst said.

“Conversely, stronger demand from European end-users for other Atlantic Basin crudes, to replace Russian cargoes, pushed up these procurement costs, and India has instead turned more to the Middle East in the last month.”

Middle East gains

Surging Brent crude prices had already prompted Indian refiners to turn more to Middle East barrels at the start of the year.

The share of oil imports from this region increased to a record 73% in April, up from 69% in March and 67% in February.

European reluctance to touch Russian crude has boosted tonne-miles for suezmaxes and aframaxes in particular.

But UK shipbroker Howe Robinson said the Mediterranean and northern Europe remained quiet at the end of this week, with little fresh activity and vessels in plentiful supply.

VLCC owners are looking to secure Middle East cargoes, but each tender attracts offers from 12 tankers, with rates still said to be “on the floor”.