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Tankers in floating storage hit new high

More than 275m barrels is tracked on 239 tankers at anchor for 20 days or more, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data

Record floating storage volumes have shielded the largest 2,800 tankers in the 3.2bn tonne per year shipment of crude and refined products from a devastating collapse in earnings and demand

FLOATING storage has soared to a fresh peak, even as oil demand rebounds with unsold Venezuelan and US crude cargoes at anchor off South Africa and Singapore adding to market disruption.

Approximately 278.2m barrels is tracked on 239 tankers at anchor for 20 days or more, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data. That figure is reduced to 207.7m barrels after Iranian-controlled or owned tonnage is removed because it is unable to trade due to unilateral US sanctions. The number incorporates long range and suezmax tankers, as well as very large crude carriers.

Some 32.6m barrels of the tally is defined as refined products in storage such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel, while the remainder is crude, condensate or fuel oil.

About 10% of the global trading VLCC fleet is now estimated to be tied up in floating storage, with 11% of all suezmax tankers, and 9.5% of aframaxes, data shows.

Record volumes in floating storage have shielded the largest 2,800 tankers in the 3.2bn tonne per year shipment of crude and refined products from the devastating collapse in earnings and demand, which has crippled the containership, car carrier, shortsea and dry bulk sectors during the past three months.

However demand for tankers remains uncertain as widespread crude export cuts over May and June to rebalance the market are shrinking available cargoes and pressuring spot rates. Although crude prices have rebounded faster than expected as countries wind back lockdown restrictions, that has not eased market disruption that saw land-based inventories soar, creating discharge delays.

The biggest logistics logjams or inventory overhangs are seen in Asia region, where 51m barrels are tracked on tankers at anchor in waters off Singapore and Malaysia. Some 19.2m barrels is in waters off West Africa. Of these, 26 of the 34 tracked tankers are loaded with refined products, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

One of the fastest growing areas for floating storage is now at Saldanha Bay off South America, which is set to overtake the well-documented discharge delays at ports along the north American Pacific coast over the past weeks.

At least five tankers floating in waters off the South African bay — where there is significant land-based storage — loaded cargoes in the US Gulf, based on vessel tracking. Other cargoes originated from West African countries of Nigeria and Congo as well as Venezuela.

Floating storage data also highlights Venezuela’s difficulty in selling crude following US sanctions on marketing divisions of trader Rosneft. Until then the Russian oil trader was an intermediary in oil sales.

Six of the 14 tankers tracked loading exporting Venezuelan crude to Asia during the past seven weeks are floating off Singapore or Malaysian waters. Another two are at anchor off Saldanha Bay. None have been discharged.

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