Crude Tankers to China Seen Signaling Pre-Holiday Imports Gain

A surge in the number of crude tankers bound for China may signal that the second-largest importing nation is buying more cargoes before New Year holidays begin later this month, the biggest oil-tanker company said.

There were 80 of the industry’s biggest tankers sailing to Chinese ports on Jan. 3, the most since Bloomberg started weekly destination counts from ship-tracking data in October 2011. The tally is 29 percent more than last year’s average.

Chinese traders may be booking more shipments in anticipation of Chinese New Year holidays, which start on Jan. 31 this year, Jens Martin Jensen, the chief executive officer of Frontline Management AS, said by phone today. There’s been a “definite increase” in bookings to the country in the past 12 months, he said later by e-mail. Frontline is the world’s largest tanker company, according to its website.

Strengthening demand from Asian oil companies helped reverse plunging rates for tankers. Vessels hauling Persian Gulf cargoes to Asia earned $47,364 a day on Jan. 2, more than double the year-ago figure, according data from Poten and Partners, a New York-based shipbroker.

The tankers, known in the industry as very large crude carriers, normally carry 2 million barrels each.

Crude oil tankers have the best prospects for a recovery because fleet growth is starting to slow while demand that multiplies cargoes by distances is expanding by about 6 percent a year, Omar Nokta, an analyst at Global Hunter Securities in New York, said in an e-mailed note today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Christie in London at nchristie5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Voss at sev@bloomberg.net

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