New data from BIMCO gives a clear indication of one of the main shipping themes since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February – Asia is buying up cheap Russian commodities shunned by the West.

China is the world’s largest importer of crude oil and Russia is the second largest crude exporter. Much of the crude oil trade between the two countries, however, is piped and the short distance from Far East Russia to China also limits the impact on demand for crude oil tankers. Still, a change in the Russia to China dirty trade has the potential to impact tanker tonne miles demand as it could come at the expense of longer trade lanes.

“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russia to China dirty tanker trade has soared 94% year-on-year measured in deadweight tonne miles,” said Niels Rasmussen, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO. This compares to a year-to-date increase of only 9% year-on-year prior to the invasion.

In comparison, total dirty tanker deadweight tonne miles exports from Russia, and imports to China, have risen 14% year-on-year and 4% year-on-year respectively since the invasion highlighting how the Russia to China trade has increased in importance for both countries.

“Accounting for 58% of the increase, it is particularly the relatively long Black Sea to China trade that has driven the overall increase in the post-invasion Russia to China dirty tanker trade,” said Rasmussen.

As deadweight tonne miles in the even longer Brazil to China trade has decreased 26% year-on-year during the same period the BIMCO analyst said it appears that the shift in China’s import patterns has reduced average miles/tonne in the Chinese import trades which overall is a negative for the dirty tanker trade.

Plenty of other data focused on Russian energy exports shows how much is now shifting east to Asia.

A count of voyages originating from Russia for the global tanker and dry bulk fleets, as tracked by shipping platform Sea/, shows the number of laden voyages took a dip around the end of February when the invasion of Ukraine began but has been creeping up in recent weeks. Top destinations are Turkey, China, South Korea and Japan.

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By Sam Chambers