This was a significant change to the export pattern seen since early 2017.
Chinese buyers, led by the world’s top tanker charterer, Unipec, were rumoured to have stayed away – and new data proves it, the organisation said.
Current rumours suggest that Chinese buyers returned early this month but to what extent will be clearer later.
Despite being left out of the ‘official’ trade war at the last minute, crude oil was removed from the Chinese $16 bill list before it came into force on 23rd August, 2018, crude exports are now taking centre stage.
BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst, Peter Sand, explained: ”The tanker shipping industry is hurt when distant US crude oil export destinations like China, are swapped for much shorter hauls into the Caribbean and South, North and Central America.
“The trade war is all around us now. What appeared on the horizon half a year ago is now impacting many seaborne trading lanes. All commodities may be impacted regardless of them being officially tariffed or not. What we see in terms of crude oil transport, is harmful to the global shipping industry as well as cumbersome to the exporters and importers of the product,” he warned.
In 2017, Chinese imports accounted to 23% of total US crude oil exports. This year, they fell slightly to 22% during the first seven months. In August the share dropped to zero.
In September, total US crude oil exports, excluding to china, hit a new record at 6.96 mill tonnes.
Exports to Asia jumped in June and July, from a 43% share of total exports since the start of 2017 to reach a 56% share. In August, that share fell back to 46%.
The two other major importing regions are Europe (26%) and North and Central America (18%), while South America (5%), Caribbean (2%) and others (4%) make up the rest. (August share of exports in brackets).
Sand added: “For the crude oil tanker shipping industry distances often matter more than volumes. Even though volumes were a record high, tonne/mile demand dropped by 19% from July to August, due to the shift in trade patterns.
“Exports to Asia are by far the most important. When measuring the tanker demand in tonne/miles, exports of US crude oil to Asia generated 70% of tonne/mile demand on that trade in August– down from 78% in June and 75% in July,” he concluded.