Russia-linked Oil, Fuel Cargoes Rush to US Before Ban Starts
At least 10 vessels carrying Russia-linked cargoes of crude and refined products were approaching the United States on Wednesday, as suppliers rushed to deliver ahead of the U.S. government's deadline to wind down Russian energy purchases, data from traders and Refinitiv Eikon showed.
The United States, the world's biggest oil consumer, this month banned imports of Russian energy products due to the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special operation." Washington's ban gives importers until April 22 to discharge cargoes moving under pre-ban contracts.
At least one tanker carrying fuel oil heading to the United States has diverted, and at least two others that stopped at Russian terminals are awaiting discharge at U.S. ports, according to Refinitiv data, one since March 7.
U.S. crude and products arrivals from Russia are provisionally forecast at 18 million barrels, or 597,000 barrels per day (bpd) on average this month, said energy strategist Clay Seigle, citing Vortexa data. That compared with an average of 672,000 bpd last year, according to U.S. government data.
"U.S. importers need to consider not only the legal risk, but also the reputational risk for dealing in sanctioned or stigmatized oil products," Seigle added.
Oil tanker Elli, which was bound for the United States after docking at a Russian port, is now anchored near toward Ceuta on Morocco's northern coast. Beijing Spirit, carrying Russian crude, was bound for the United States, diverted to France, and now signals a March 26 arrival in Philadelphia, Refinitiv showed.
Halkidon Shipping Corp, which manages the Elli, said the vessel "was instructed by her charterers to remain and await orders off Gibraltar, while en-route from Novorossiisk, Russia, to the U.S. Gulf Coast."
On Wednesday, tanker Confidence that had docked at a Russian port and was chartered by U.S. refiner Phillips 66 was anchored near New York harbor with a cargo of vacuum gas oil. The Confidence is not encumbered by sanctions, an official at vessel manager Dynacom Tanker said on Wednesday.
"If it does (in the future), it will certainly not sail to the United States," the Dynacom official said on condition of anonymity.
The Minerva Clara, chartered by BP and carrying fuel oil has been anchored off the coast of Louisiana since last week. Minerva Clara's managing company declined to comment, while the managing company of Beijing Spirit did not respond to a request for comment.
Segregating oil blends
U.S. oil refiner PBF Energy is due to receive at Delaware City about 1 million barrels of Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) Blend crude with a Russian origin certificate and loaded in Russia, according to a shipping document seen by Reuters and person familiar with the matter.
PBF did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. ban on Russian imports does not prohibit trading in CPC crude, the U.S. Treasury said last week. In an advisory, it said the CPC can segregate Russian origin crude to market and load non-Russian oils separately.
CPC Blend is composed primarily of oil from Kazakhstan that is often mixed with Russian crude and loaded at Russia's Novorossiisk port on the Black Sea.
A Ukrainian official on Tuesday called on western oil companies to completely boycott Russian ports and oil, asking U.S. based Chevron, which ships oil from Kazakhstan oilfields through the CPC, to halt the shipments.
Chevron said it complies with U.S. laws and its share of oil put into the pipeline is certified as of Kazakhstan origin. It did not comment on the request to halt loadings at the Russian port.
(Reuters - Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar, Marianna Parraga, Ron Bousso, Jonathan Saul, Jarret Renshaw and Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio)