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Cosco Group May Order Supertankers as Oil Imports Rise

Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- China Ocean Shipping Group Co., the nation’s biggest ship operator, is considering an order for very large crude carriers as the country’s economic growth spurs oil imports.

The plan is at the “ideas and research” stage, Meng Qinglin, managing director of tanker arm Dalian Ocean Shipping Co., said by text message today. The decision on the order will depend on factors including the company’s internal resources, market demand and costs, he said in a separate message.

The state-owned shipping group may order 10 supertankers, maritime newspaper Lloyd’s List said yesterday, citing an unidentified person at Cosco Dalian. China, the second-largest crude consumer after the U.S., has boosted oil imports 66 percent over the past five years as domestic production has failed to keep pace with rising demand.

Any order would probably be tied to a long-term charter contract, so it may not have a big impact on the spot market, where overcapacity has hit rates, said Richard Park, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul.

“It’s unlikely that Cosco Group’s order will undermine sentiment because they will use those vessels for China,” he said. “Still, it would make sense for them to charter vessels because there is an abundant supply out there.”

VLCC returns have been negative on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan route since July 5, according to data from the London-based Baltic Exchange. The ships, each able to hold 2 million barrels of crude, are losing $1,437 daily, its data showed.

Cosco Fleet

Cosco Dalian has 18 tankers on its fleet, of which six are VLCCs, according to Clarkson data. The company is a closely held unit of Cosco Group, which is also the parent of Hong Kong-listed China Cosco Holdings Co.

An order would support China’s push to increase domestic investments as an export slowdown damps economic growth. Manufacturing may contract for an 11th month in September, based on the preliminary reading of 47.8 for a purchasing managers’ index released today by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics. Supertankers cost $95 million at the end of August, according to data from shipbroker Clarkson Plc.

Chinese shipyards’ orders also fell 15 percent in the first eight months of the year to $8.8 billion, Clarkson data show, as a glut of dry-bulk ships damps demand.

Chinese ship operators are also in talks on forming a pool of very large crude carriers, China Shipping Development Co. Vice Chairman Zhang Guofa said in August. The talks have been going on for three years and no deal has been reached, he said.

China’s overseas oil purchases averaged 22.5 million tons a month from January to August, the latest available month of data from China’s General Administration of Customs. China’s own production of crude has grown 9 percent to 17 million tons.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Alexandra Ho in Shanghai at aho113@bloomberg.net; Kyunghee Park in Singapore at kpark3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net

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