Friday, April 13, 2007

China's Oil Tanker Boom

China's Oil Tanker Boom
Lee Geng
Apr. 09, 2007

During the Ming Dynasty six hundred years ago,famed Chinesenavigator Zhengexplored the seas with his mighty fleet. Today, China is a manufacturing power, not a naval one. And that bothers the Chinese government. With oil imports of about 2.7 million barrels per day (nearly half of its total consumption), the government wants to double its fleet of supertankers by 2008.

At present, Chinese tankers only transport about 10 percent of the country’s oil imports. The government wants to increase that percentage to help ease concerns over energy security, avoid the possibility of shortages, and perhaps avert political frictions that could lead to delays or blocks on deliveries.

China currently has 23 300,000-deadweight tonnage (dwt) tankers, known as very large crude carriers, or VLCCs. Those VLCCs account for about 30 percent of China’s tanker tonnage and about 4 percent of the world’s fleet.

Most of the remaining tankers in China’s inventory are small and/or old, and thus better suited for the coastal trade than for international oil shipments. Chinese tankers on average are 30 percent older than their international counterparts and much smaller, averaging only 20,000 dwt (about one-fifteenth the size of a VLCC).

By 2010, China wants to have a VLCC fleet capable of shipping over 50 percent of its expected 4 million barrels per day of imports. By 2020, China plans a fleet of 70 VLCCs. Big Chinese shipping corporations are ordering VLCCs to achieve that target. China Merchants Group, with the country’s largest VLCC fleet, will add six before 2008, with China Ocean Shipping Corp. (COSCO) adding five. State-owned China Shipping Group (CSG) is operating three VLCCs and nine are on order for a total of 12 by 2010. This will allow it to boost its total annual capacity to over 100 million tons of oil.

COSCO operates eight VLCCs and has another seven under construction. One of China’s largest shipyards, Dalian Shipbuilding Industry Co., Ltd., has received more than 20 orders from both domestic and foreign companies for VLCCs, scheduled for delivery around 2009. Other players in the tanker business are ordering new vessels as well. Nanjing Tanker Corp. has plans to establish a fleet of 10 VLCCs. Hebei Ocean Shipping Co. has ordered three VLCCs and Nanjing Changjiang has ordered eight.

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