Tunisia to South Korea: A new trade route for Russian naphtha


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NEW DELHI — South Korea has started

importing naphtha from Tunisia, which in turn has seen a jump in

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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.

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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

trade route.

South Korea’s trade ministry declined to comment. Tunisia’s

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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

data shows.

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

the data.

“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

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shows.

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

(KT)

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

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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

(Source: Refinitiv)

(Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang and Joyce Lee in Seoul,

and Tarek A. Amara in Tunisia; Editing by Nidhi Verma and Mark

Potter)

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