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Amid a general unwillingness of tanker owners to send their vessels to Russian ports, the freight rates for a medium-sized tanker to load Russian crude jumped nearly threefold on Thursday from Wednesday, shipbrokers and traders told Bloomberg.
The freight rate to hire an Aframax tanker on the Baltic Sea to Europe route surged after Russia invaded Ukraine, while owners of oil tankers had already started to avoid Russian ports because of both the military invasion of Ukraine and apprehension that sanctions for oil could also come soon.
As a result of the surging Baltic-Europe tanker rates, the Middle East to Europe rates also rose.
Two-thirds of Russia's crude oil exports are seaborne, from ports in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. The Russian flagship Urals crude grade loads from ports in the Baltic Sea, and most of it is sold in Europe.
While international benchmark oil prices were soaring on Thursday, the Urals grade was offered at the deepest discount in at least 11 years—$11.60 a barrel below Dated Brent, as traders feared sanctions on Russian oil, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Owners of tankers have become reluctant to offer their vessels to load crude from Russia for fear that their future cargo could be breaching potential sanctions if the West decides to deploy the harshest sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine early on Thursday.
Buyers in Asia, the key crude importing region, were also alarmed that they could soon struggle to procure enough crude. The general perception among Asian oil traders is that the situation is "quite complicated," one trader told Energy Intelligence on Thursday.
The latest round of sanctions against Russia—latest as of late Thursday—continues to allow energy trade and bank settlements for energy flows and does not cut off Russia from the SWIFT global banking system.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.