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Vitol Group, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, is shipping the first-ever cargo of Russia’s ESPO crude blend to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing data from oil-flow tracking and analytics firms.
The Kriti Breeze oil tanker loaded 740,000 barrels of Russia’s ESPO crude at the port of Kozmino in Russia’s Far East on Tuesday, May 3, per data from Refinitiv, Vortexa, and Kpler cited by Reuters.
According to MarineTraffic tanker positioning data, the Kriti Breeze, traveling under the flag of Liberia, has already departed from Kozmino and is headed to the port of Fujairah in the UAE, with an estimated date of arrival May 25.
Russia usually sells its ESPO crude blend to refiners in North Asia, traders tracking the grade’s flows told Reuters.
The cargo is apparently “very creative and FOB (free-on-board) discounts must be huge for it to work,” one of those traders told Reuters.
Some refiners in North Asian countries allied with the U.S. and the EU, such as Japan and South Korea, have joined the “self-sanctioning” drive of not importing Russian oil, which is most evident in Europe.
Major international traders have already said they would either cut or phase out purchases of Russia’s crude in the coming weeks. Vitol itself plans to wind down its activities involving Russian crude oil by the end of this year, Bloomberg reported last month, citing a spokesman for the company.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is working on additional energy sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, with an oil import embargo now on the table. The EU could offer exemptions to Hungary and Slovakia who rely heavily on Russian oil, while Hungary has also said it would veto an embargo.
“We are working on the 6th package of sanctions which aims to de-swift more banks, list disinformation actors and tackle oil imports,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, tweeted on Tuesday.
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.