NEW DELHI — South Korea has started
importing naphtha from Tunisia, which in turn has seen a jump in
supplies from Russia, highlighting the unusual trading routes
that are emerging following Western sanctions against Moscow
over its war in Ukraine.
South Korea, the world’s largest importer of naphtha, last
year bought 590,000 tonnes of the fuel used in petrochemicals
from Russia, or nearly a quarter of its total naphtha imports,
according to trade flow data from Refinitiv.
But those flows have now almost dried up, the figures show.
In the meantime, data from the state-run Korea National Oil
Corp (KNOC) show Seoul imported 740,000 barrels – or about
82,000 tonnes – of naphtha from Tunisia last month.
That compares with none in the whole of 2021 and just
192,000 barrels in November 2020 – the only prior month of
naphtha imports from Tunisia in KNOC data doing back to 2019.
Seoul is also set to receive about 274,000 tonnes of naphtha
this month from Tunisia, according to the Refinitiv data.
“Re-routing is mainly to avoid the scrutiny of the West and
take advantage of cheaper Russian barrels,” Manish Sejwal, vice
president of market analysis at Rystad Energy, said of the new
South Korea’s trade ministry declined to comment. Tunisia’s
trade ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Russian naphtha started landing at La Skhirra port in
Tunisia from August this year and last month the North African
nation shipped out its first cargo to South Korea, the Refinitiv
Tunisia, which rarely imports naphtha, received 410,000
tonnes of the light distillate from Russia in August-November
this year, compared with none in the whole of 2021, according to
“Tunisia does not import naphtha … Tunisia exports it,” an
official at Tunisia’s energy ministry said. He declined to be
named as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Last year, Tunisia exported an average 21,000 tonnes per
month of naphtha, mostly to European nations, the Refinitiv data
Russian industry sources said naphtha cargoes were shipped
to La Skhirra for storage while traders await better prices.
Out of the nine vessels from Russia that went to Tunisia
carrying naphtha, four were chartered by Coral Energy.
Coral Energy said it did not have storage in Tunisia and had
chartered vessels for its non-Tunisian customers under the deals
done on a delivered basis.
Vessels that have loaded from Russia’s Novorossiysk port for
discharge at Tunisia’s La Skhirra
Vessel Volume Departure Date Arrival Date
BEKS FENIX 30.00 Oct. 29 Nov. 11
ROLLS I 30.00 Oct. 22 Oct. 31
JANINE K 29.94 Oct. 20 Oct. 28
RES COGITANS 50.00 Oct. 7 Oct. 17
LORELEI 56.09 Oct. 2 Oct. 11
LEADER 58.00 Sep. 2 Sep. 28
ARIEL 28.80 Sep. 1 Sep. 11
LORELEI 62.62 Aug. 16 Aug. 31
MAISTROS 64.60 Aug. 6 Aug. 23
Vessels that have departed from Tunisia’s La Skhirra port
for discharge in South Korea
Vessel Volume Departure Discharge Arrival
(KT) date Port Date
STI ALEXIS 70.00 Oct. 28 Yeosu (Yosu) Nov. 27
STELLATA 23.00 Oct. 11 Daesan Nov. 22
STELLATA 32.00 Oct. 11 Kwangyang Nov. 16
SERIANA 86.00 Oct. 3 Kwangyang Nov. 10
SPETSES LADY 63.00 Sep. 28 Daesan Nov. 2
SPETSES LADY 24.50 Sep. 28 Kwangyang Oct. 28
(Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee in Seoul,
and Tarek A. Amara in Tunisia; Editing by Nidhi Verma and Mark