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Group of giant new tankers lines up to ship diesel out of Asia

[LONDON] A fleet of giant newly built oil tankers is gearing up to ship diesel out of East Asia.

Five very large crude carriers (VLCC), which typically carry about 2 million barrels of oil each, are currently positioned in the seas off China's eastern and southern coasts, according to shipping intelligence and tracking company Kpler. Two more newbuilds are set to swell that fleet shortly. If all were fully loaded, they would haul a total approaching what is currently held in independent storage in Europe's key trading hub of the Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp ports.

"It's a large volume coming at once," said Olivier Jakob, director at Petromatrix GmbH in Zug, Switzerland.

China is boosting output, with more refinery capacity coming online, while weak local demand for middle distillates is helping to push products west, said Mr Jakob. The start of refinery maintenance season in Europe also stoking Western demand for the fuel. China's first round of export quotas also signaled an increase in diesel exports at the start of the year, while independent gasoil/diesel stocks in ARA are at their lowest seasonally since 2014.

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Three of the seven VLCCs highlighted by Kpler - the San Ramon Voyager, Ascona and Olympic Laurel -- have already taken on board a combined 3.5 million barrels of diesel, according to a Bloomberg calculation from Kpler data, but are not yet fully loaded. Of the remaining four, one is currently loading, one is en route to Singapore where it may take on product, and two have yet to fully leave their construction yards.

"We expect the majority of these cargoes to head west around the Cape of Good Hope," said Eli Powell, a Kpler analyst. Discharging is likely in northwest Europe, with possible partial discharges in West Africa.

"European demand conditions are quite favourable," said Harry Tchilinguirian, global head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in London. "It would make sense to try to move a lot of volume into Europe in short order to meet that demand."

The surge in Asian exports mirrors an increase in shipments of oil products, much of it diesel, from India and the Middle East into Europe in recent weeks. January's monthly arrivals from India are set to hit their highest since at least 2017, and shipments from the Persian Gulf will be at their highest since July last year.

BLOOMBERG