Demand for oil cargoes headed to India has taken a turn for the worse, as the country with the second largest population is grappling with the effects of the coronavirus. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “India is now the second most affected country in the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 8 million cases reported so far, second only to the USA. This could be just the tip of the iceberg, given the very low level of testing. India has conducted only 74000 tests per 1 million people, compared to 401000 tests per million in the USA, 242000 tests per million in Italy, and 103000 tests per million in Brazil. Unsurprisingly, India has been stuck in perpetual national or localised lockdowns since spring.
According to the shipbroker, “this is of course affecting energy demand. Indian state-run refiners, which control around 65 percent of the country’s 5 million b/d of refining capacity, were forced to slash runs to as low as 75 percent during JulyAugust, according to Argus, as localised lockdowns reduced economic activity and disrupted supply chains. IOC, India’s biggest state-controlled refiner, plans to keep throughput below 75% until demand rises. Diesel consumption in August was down by 23% from the same period in 2019, state-controlled refiners said, as reported by Argus. Gasoline demand in August fell by 6% from a year earlier. Jet fuel sales declined by 66% from a year earlier.
Banchero Costa said that “in the first 9 months of 2020, India imported 144.6 mln tonnes of crude oil by sea, according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv. This represents a net decline of -8.0% y-o-y compared to the 157.1 mln tonnes imported in the same period of 2019, and is also -12.4% lower than the 165.0 mln tonnes imported in Jan-Sep 2018. In the first quarter of 2020, India imported 56.1 mln tonnes of seaborne crude oil, which was still a very positive +5.4% increase on the same period last year. However, in the second quarter of the year, India’s seaborne crude oil imports fell sharply to 44.3 mln tonnes, down -16.5% year-on-year. Things hit a bottom in June 2020, with monthly imports of just 13.5 mln tonnes, which was -11.5% down m-o-m from May 2020, and -20.5% y-o-y from June last year. This was also the worse monthly volume in a decade”.
Imports from Saudi Arabia decreased by -7.9% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2020 to 27.2 mln tonnes. Shipments from Iraq to India also declined by -7.3% year-on-year in Jan-Sep 2020 to 33.5 mln tonnes.
The shipbroker added that “the country’s import volumes remained disappointing also in the third quarter. In the July-September period, India imported 44.2 mln tonnes of crude oil, which was -13.1% y-o-y less than in the same quarter last year. Trading patterns have not changed significantly this year, beyond the obvious (i.e. sanctions-related). Just as last year, over 60 percent of all crude shipments to India were sourced from the Arabian Gulf. Volumes continued to shrink from Iran, from 5.4 mln tonnes in JanSep 2019 to zero this year.
This was partially compensated by a 4.7 mln tonnes increase in imports from the UAE, up +27.8% y-o-y to 17.0 mln t in Jan-Sep 2020. Imports from Qatar also surged by +111% y-o-y to 2.9 mln tonnes. Imports from Venezuela also went down by -31.8% y-o-y to 7.0 mln t. On the other hand, India imported 0.9 mln tonnes of crude from Colombia, up from zero last year. Volumes from West Africa went down -25.0% y-o-y to 16.7 mln tonnes. From ASEAN imports went down -6.6% y-o-y to 3.0 mln tonnes”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide