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US and China Sit on Huge Stockpile of Crude as VLCC Charters Hit 17-Month Low

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July 18, 2012

Front Chief, a 311k DWT VLCC, image courtesy Frontline

(Bloomberg) — The number of oil-tankers booked to haul 2 million-barrel cargoes of crude from ports in the Persian Gulf is poised to slump to a 17-month low as Chinese charters decline, commodities broker Marex Spectron Group said.

Charters of very large crude carriers to ship Middle East crude will probably fall by 10 percent from June to 115 shipments this month, the lowest tally since February 2011, Kevin Sy, a Singapore-based freight derivatives broker at Marex Spectron, said by e-mail today. A reduction in bookings to China will be the biggest contributor to the slump, he said.

China bought 5.28 million barrels a day more crude than it exported last month, customs data show. That’s the least since net imports of 5.1 million barrels a day in December and compares with a record high of 5.98 million barrels a day in May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The world’s second-largest oil consumer built a surplus of about 90 million barrels of crude in the first five months of the year, its fastest stockpiling since the run-up to the 2008 Olympics.

VLCCs plying the industry’s benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan trade route lost an average of $1,121 a day so far in July, the ships’ worst month since October, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London.

U.S. crude inventories are near a 22-year high, curbing demand for imports, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy. Total inventories were 378 million barrels on July 6, the data show. They were at 387 million barrels three weeks earlier, the highest since July 1990.

– Rob Sheridan, Copyright 2012 Bloomberg
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