Imports of light distillates at the Port of Fujairah on the eastern coast of the UAE dropped to the lowest on record in March, according to cargo tracking data from Kpler.
Imports were 88,000 b/d, down 40% from a year earlier and the lowest since the data began being compiled in January 2017, the company told S&P Global Platts. Imports were down from 162,000 b/d in February.
Stockpiles of light distillates, which includes gasoline and condensates, dropped 20% on the month in March, even as inventories of middle and heavy distillates expanded, data from the Fujairah Oil Industry Zone showed. The coronavirus was spreading outside China in March, leading to lockdowns in Europe, the Middle East and parts of the US.
Traders were storing more gasoline and gasoil at sea in March as lockdowns curbed commuting and leisure driving, market analysts said. That may have contributed to reduced imports of light distillates in the month, they said. Jet fuel, a middle distillate, is more unstable for storage, while marine fuel may also have been stockpiled at sea during the month, they said. The increased demand for floating storage led to increased freight rates in March, which continued in April and so far in May, the analysts said.
"Overall demand for distillates for the maritime shipping industry, land-based industries and re-exports are down mainly due to depressed demand due to COVID-19," Apurva Mali, sales manager at Masc Co DMCC, a Dubai-based broker in bunker fuels, said.
Imports and exports of heavy distillates fell to 13-month lows, with imports at 241,000 b/d and exports at 231,000 b/d. Imports were down from 410,000 b/d in February and 387,000 b/d in March 2019. Exports declined from 259,000 b/d in February and 251,000 b/d in March 2019.
Middle distillate exports out of Fujairah were 117,000 b/d in March, down from 134,000 b/d in February but up from 76,000 b/d in March 2019, according to the Kpler data. Light distillate exports fell to 128,000 b/d from 138,000 b/d in February and 176,000 b/d in March 2019.
Stockpiles of heavy distillates in Fujairah climbed 6.9% over March. As of March 30, heavy distillate stockpiles were 14.486 million barrels, up from 13.556 million barrels on March 2, according to Fujairah data compiled by Platts. The heavy distillates include fuel oil used for marine bunkers and power generation.
Over the same period, middle distillate inventories jumped 17% to 2.304 million barrels. Middle distillates includes jet fuel, kerosene, gasoil, diesel and marine bunker gasoil.
Kpler's light and middle distillates figures go back to January 2017 while heavy distillates started in January 2018.