Tanker fleet likely to ensure China’s oil security

Himalayan News Service

Beijing, April 23:

As China becomes a major oil importer, experts say building the country’s own oil tanker fleet to ensure oil security in the future is an urgent task. The fleet should be capable of

handling at least 50 per cent of China’s total oil imports, the Economic Information Daily quoted shipping industry experts as saying. Based on this estimation, the oil tanker fleet should be able to handle 75 million tonnes of the oil imports by the year 2010. The figure would rise to more than 130 million tonnes by 2020, says Xinhuanet, quoting the newspaper. China became a net oil importer in 1993 and its oil imports have risen steadily. Last year, it imported 123 million tonnes of oil, while its annual oil consumption stood at 280 million tonnes. The International Energy Agency has forecast that China will import 150 million tonnes of oil in the year 2010, and the figure will climb to 250 million by 2020. Currently, the majority of China’s oil tankers are on average six years older than the oil tankers of other countries, the report stated.

The oil tankers are small and each can carry less than 100,000 tonnes of oil, compared with the 270,000-tonne and 300,000-tonne oil tankers commonly used in the international market. China’s two largest oil importers, the China Petro-Chemical Corp and the China National Petroleum Corp, do not have their own oil tankers. During the past couple of years, the oil imports shipped by China’s oil tankers made up only 10 per cent of the total and 90 per cent were shipped by leasing foreign oil tankers. Although the government has worked on building up strategic oil reserves, the work to build a large tanker fleet has been overlooked, according

to Yao Ping, deputy general manager of the China Yangtze River Navigation Group. He cited Japan and South Korea as examples, saying Japan has large oil tankers with a total tonnage of 20 million tonnes, which could ship 80 per cent of the oil imported by Japan. The South Korean oil tankers could carry a total of 6.6 million tonnes of oil, accounting for 30 per cent of the country’s total oil imports.

China mainly imports oil from the Middle East, African, American and Southeast Asian countries, said Li Peirong, director of the information department of China National Offshore Oil Corp. This implied that it would have to hinge on sea transportation to import large uantities of oil in the future. Building China’s own oil tanker fleet would also help stabilise ocean oil shipping prices, which have risen steadily over the past few years, said Zhu Ning, general manager of the Nanjing Yangtze River Oil Shipping Company.