vlcc tanker

Saudis Make Rare Supertanker Bookings to Carry Flood of Oil

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March 10, 2020
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Photo: Garry2014 / Shutterstock

By Sheela Tobben, Alaric Nightingale and Serene Cheong (Bloomberg) — Saudi Arabia’s biggest tanker company booked a batch of ships to transport the kingdom’s crude to U.S. customers in what shipbrokers say is a highly unusual step for the company.

National Shipping Co., also known as Bahri, has booked around five Very Large Crude Carriers to load supplies this month from Saudi Arabia’s main oil ports bound for the U.S. Gulf, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The supertankers, which each can carry about 2 million barrels of oil, include Dalian, Agios Sostis and Hong Kong Spirit, they said. There is a chance that the preliminary bookings could fail.

It’s a rare move for Bahri, which has typically relied on its own fleet to deliver oil around the world. A shipbroker involved in booking the vessels said he couldn’t recall Bahri booking supertankers in the spot market for Middle East-to-U.S. Gulf voyages for several years.

These spot charters come on the heels of plans by Saudi Arabia to increase its production, following the breakdown of talks between OPEC and its allied producers, particularly Russia, last week. Next month, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Aramco has pledged to supply a record 12.3 million barrels a day, 25% higher than in February.

Crude Flood

The flood of crude scheduled for next month will require more tankers, particularly for trips to Asia, Aramco’s largest and most profitable market, said one person. With trips to the U.S. taking at least 40 days, Bahri’s existing fleet won’t be back in time to haul the additional oil.

Bahri runs a fleet of 41 supertankers, making it among the world’s largest operators of the vessels, according to Clarkson Research Services Ltd. The carriers often transport the kingdom’s crude and have, in recent years, meant the kingdom didn’t need to rely on outside companies to haul its barrels to the Gulf of Mexico.

–With assistance from Firat Kayakiran.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P
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