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Even Tankers Carrying Russian Fuels Have Started Avoiding the Red Sea

Some tankers transporting Russian fuels have started to avoid the Suez Canal route to Asia as ship-tracking data shows operators of vessels carrying Russian oil products may have reached the risk tolerance for passing close to Houthi missiles in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Red Sea/Suez Canal route is the shortest route for tankers from Russia’s western ports to Asia. Until recently, traders and operators were relatively sure that cargoes of Russian origin wouldn’t be targeted. But last week’s attack on a U.S. and UK-linked tanker carrying Russian naphtha may have prompted the re-routing of some Russia-originated cargoes.

Several tankers loaded from the Baltic and Black Sea ports in Russia have diverted destinations while in the Mediterranean and instead of the Suez Canal, the vessels are now headed toward Gibraltar and further down along the African coast, according to LSEG data and market sources quoted by Reuters.

The current Gibraltar and West Africa positions of a few tankers suggest that those vessels would now travel around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa to reach their Asian customers.

Refining margins for naphtha in Asia jumped to their highest level in nearly two years early this week, following an attack on a tanker transporting Russian fuel.

The petroleum products tanker Marlin Luanda was struck by a missile in the Gulf of Aden after transiting the Red Sea, commodity trading giant Trafigura said late on Friday.  

The vessel, operated on behalf of Trafigura, was transporting Russian naphtha bought below the price cap in line with the G7 sanctions, a spokesperson for Trafigura told Reuters on Friday after the attack.

This week, other signs emerged that some Russian crude and products will be avoiding the Red Sea.

Two supertankers in the Mediterranean are ready for ship-to-ship transfers (STS) of Urals crude from smaller tankers that loaded at Russia’s Baltic and Black Sea ports. These two very large crude carriers (VLCC) will then transit around the Cape of Good Hope, Lloyd’s List reported on Tuesday, citing commodities and data analytics provider Vortexa.

Meanwhile, Russia’s fuel exports rose to a six-week high in the week to January 28, after a decline in the previous week, data from Vortexa compiled by Bloomberg showed on Wednesday. 

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By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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