Chinese crude tanker trips have fallen to their lowest level in nearly two years, underlining concerns over demand from the world’s largest oil importer.

Data compiled by Bloomberg shows 86 vessels indicating China as their next destination through to 3 October.

This is down five tankers from last week and the lowest seven-day figure since August 2022.

Brokers and analysts have been reporting for some time on fears of how falling Chinese demand could hit the tanker market.

These long-haul trips look set to diminish as demand shows signs of softness in the second half of 2024.

Refineries have been slower than expected to return to full operation after season maintenance, Bloomberg reported.

Crude buyers have been importing fewer barrels as a result.

Data showed a total of 35 tankers en route to the US, two down over the week.

But 14 are signalling Angola, the highest level since April.

The African producer has been aiming to boost exports since it left Opec+ at the end of 2023.

Bloomberg analysed 546 ships with arrival dates through to 3 October.

The destinations could change, and 37 ships did not provide a discharge port.

Russian tanker freight costs fall

At the same time, the price of delivering Russia’s flagship Urals crude into Asia from the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk has sunk to the lowest level since October, according to data from Argus Media, which shows calculated freight at $7.2m for a million-barrel suezmax cargo into northern China, down by $3.2m since early April.

Argus said $2.8m of the price is directly attributable to Western sanctions against Russia. This is down from $4m over the past three months.

The price is about $75 per barrel in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea, well above the $60 G7 price cap on Russian oil, keeping mainstream shipowners out of that market.

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