The ramping up of operations at Africa’s biggest refinery next year will probably lead to a decline in crude tanker tonne-miles because of a loss of Nigerian exports to Europe, Asia and the US, according to freight data analyst Kpler.

The picture will be mixed for different sectors. The suezmax markets are expected to suffer the largest decline of 2% in tonne-miles in 2025 compared with last year. Most of the expected losses will come from exports to Europe and the Mediterranean.

Tonne-miles will fall slightly (0.2%) for VLCCs owing to lower exports from Nigeria and Angola, which will be diverted to the Dangote plant near Lagos, said senior freight analyst Matthew Wright.

But aframax tankers could benefit from the changes with a potential 1.5% gain next year, compared with 2023, as the segment is “only exposed to the benefits from the changes in flows”, he told a webinar.

Kpler analysts said the opening of the 650,000 barrel per day plant is a major disruptor for tanker markets after upheavals following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and missile attacks in the Red Sea.

There are no crude pipelines to the plant; all oil arrives by ship.

Dangote imported its first crude cargo last December and increased its intake to 270,000 bpd in June, or 40% of capacity.

The amount is expected to increase to about 400,000 bpd in the second half of next year and 550,000 bpd in the final quarter of 2026.

So far, more than one-quarter of the crude for the refinery has been WTI Midland from the US Gulf Coast, which has been a boost for the tanker trade.

But three-quarters has been Nigerian oil, limiting exports to other destinations and causing a net reduction in crude tonne-miles.

Nigerian crude exports averaged 1.5m bpd in 2023 but have gradually declined since then, reaching 1.1m bpd in April, according to Kpler.

The increased domestic use of crude will have an impact on countries such as South Africa, Indonesia and Ivory Coast, where Nigeria is the main supplier.

Refineries in Spain, France and Italy will also have to turn to the US and the Mediterranean to replace Nigerian barrels.

The impact on clean tanker tonne-miles will depend on whether Nigerian products remain within West Africa or head to north-western Europe.

Tonne-miles are likely to fall if they remain in West Africa but increase if they go to Europe, said Wright.

“This is not going to necessarily be a hugely positive rate story, more of a change in flows … than some of the other big events we’ve seen in the tanker market over the last couple of years,” he said.