Navigating Troubled Waters: Impact of Red Sea Disruptions on Global Oil Trading
The supertanker Grand Bonanza embarks on an unconventional 40-day journey, circumventing the Red Sea, to deliver 1.8 million barrels of Abu Dhabi crude for TotalEnergies from the UAE to France. This alternative route, chosen to avoid the Red Sea due to Houthi forces’ attacks, illustrates the escalating challenges faced by the shipping industry.
This elongated journey, approximately two weeks longer than the typical Suez Canal route, comes with a hefty price tag—estimated at $5.7 million, nearly 80% more than the standard route. TotalEnergies’ decision sheds light on the broader implications of Red Sea disruptions, primarily driven by Houthi attacks, on global oil trading.
The recent strike on a Trafigura-chartered fuel tanker accentuates the risks associated with the Red Sea, prompting energy producers and traders to reassess their strategies. Longer voyages around the Cape of Good Hope, with increased costs and risks, and the deployment of larger crude tankers become viable alternatives. However, buyers are seeking discounts to offset elevated freight costs and war risk premiums.
Shippers are compelled to reevaluate routes, refuelling points, and even accelerate cruising speeds, contributing to higher fuel consumption and increased emissions. The prolonged disruptions in the Red Sea have the potential to significantly impact the cost of delivered crude unless the situation improves swiftly, warns industry experts.
European refiners find themselves caught in a dilemma as increased shipping times elevate costs for their crude. Nevertheless, their margins are supported by a decrease in competing product imports from West Asia and India. The longer travel times have also led to a tightening of tanker supply, affecting shipments of naphtha from Europe to Asia and diesel from the east to Europe.
As the Red Sea remains a geopolitical hotspot impacting global trade routes, stakeholders in the oil industry are compelled to adapt to these challenges. The strategic decisions made today will not only shape the cost dynamics of crude oil delivery but will also influence the broader landscape of global oil trading.