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China Launches World’s First Smart Oil Tanker

China unveiled the world’s first intelligent Very Large Crude Carrier, which will have a capacity of more than 2.257 million barrels, China News Service reports, adding that the vessel, named New Journey, was delivered to China Merchant Energy Shipping Co. in Dalian.

"At present, countries around the world are actively promoting intelligent navigation and developing intelligent technologies for ships, which plays an important role in improving maritime traffic safety, energy conservation, emission reduction and economic efficiency," the news service quoted the vice chief engineer of the company that built the VLCC, Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co., as saying.

Among the “intelligent” features of the vessel, according to Guan Yinghua, are assisted autopilot navigation, intelligent liquefied cargo management, comprehensive energy efficiency management, equipment operation and maintenance, and finally integrated ship-to-shore communication, China News Service reports.

China is the world’s largest oil importer, last year taking in more than 20 percent of the global total in monetary terms. Its top suppliers are Russia, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Iraq, and Oman. Chinese crude oil imports are likely to continue growing as more refining capacity comes on stream over the next couple of years. Related: Trump: We Won’t Protect Foreign Oil Tankers For Free

Currently, Chinese refiners are already processing crude at record-high rates, with the average for April at almost 12.7 million bpd. This year, total refining capacity in the country will add some 890,000 bpd, of which almost half has already come on stream at an independent refiner’s 400,000-bpd refinery. In 2020, another 1.08 million bpd in refining capacity will start operating, which will push imports higher as well as domestic production continues declining due to natural causes such as depletion and geologically challenging formations that are holding back new production.

Yet refining capacity will not stop growing next year: refiners are building another 1.12 million bpd in new capacity that will come on stream in 2021. While this could—and likely would—worsen an already serious fuel glut in Asia, it will continue driving the world’s top importer’s shipments from abroad. The smart VLCC could be the first of many as cost management continues to be a top priority in an upward trend for imports and volatile international prices.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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