Total and Itochu will ship 155,000 tonnes of Asian gas oil to Europe from late-January loading, taking the overall arbitrage volumes for loading this month to more than 200,000 tonnes.
Total and Itochu will ship 155,000 tonnes of Asian gas oil to Europe from late-January loading, taking the overall arbitrage volumes for loading this month to more than 200,000 tonnes, traders said on Thursday. French major Total will load 65,000 tonnes in Singapore on Jan. 28, while Japanese trading house Itochu will lift 90,000 tonnes earlier on Jan. 25 in South Korea. "Both are fully fixed," said a shipping broker.
The arbitrage economics could have been hedged some time ago, traders said, at a time of lower shipping costs.
"The arbitrage is working in the sense that people have to move the barrels out," said a trader, explaining why the fixtures were workable despite heavy inventories in Europe.
In addition, the weather in Europe is getting colder amid expectations that more heating oil would be required in the face of the lingering gas row between Russia and Ukraine, and European states have scant hopes of renewed Russian gas supplies.
Shipping costs have fallen to $2.3 million for 90,000-tonnage from the $3.7 million in mid-November, as oil demand growth was crippled in the face of a global recession.
"There are many vessels left idle," a broker said.
With these fixtures, the Europe-bound diesel shipments rose to 215,000 tonnes for January versus 90,000 tonnes in December, but still lagged the record of 795,000 tonnes in October.
Such outflows helped support gas oil prices in Singapore, clearing a recent glut in the region. The January/February swaps spread improved to a backwardation of 15 cents a barrel from a contango of 10-20 cents earlier this week.
Onshore middle distillate stocks dipped 77,000 barrels to 13.125 million barrels as of Jan. 14, after hitting a 10-week the week before.
The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has hit Europe may also be forcing end users to use more diesel instead.