LNG, oil tankers diverted from Yemen amid turmoil: sources

Aden Refinery temporarily suspends tender process to import

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At least four oil and natural gas tankers that were headed to Yemen have been diverted as chaos mounts in the country after the launch of Saudi-led air strikes last month, according to industry sources and ship tracking data.

Fighting in Yemen is scaring off shippers and has forced the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant to take one of its production plants, or trains, off line.

Several companies, including France's Total and APR Energy Plc have either evacuated staff or ceased operations due to the conflict.

Yemen’s Aden Refinery was supposed to issue a tender last week to seek oil product imports for May, but has now suspended the tender process and is waiting for the situation in the country to stabilize, an industry source in Yemen told Reuters.

This is expected to weigh on profit margins for oil products in Asia and the Middle East, which have had to cope with increasing supply from new refineries, traders said.

An oil tanker “Hong Ze Hu,” which was chartered by Italian oil company ENI to carry 60,000 tonnes of high sulphur gasoil from South Korea to Yemen's Little Aden for delivery in April, turned around near Colombo on April 4 and is now near Singapore, Reuters shiptracking data showed.

ENI did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

“Insurance companies are rejecting to berth the vessels in Yemen, so some of the vessels are refusing to berth there,” a trader familiar with operations in Yemen said.

Three LNG tankers, Provalys, STX Kolt and Grace Acacia, were headed towards Yemen’s export terminal in Balhaf earlier this month, but were all diverted, Reuters ship-tracking map showed.

The Provalys was set to arrive at Balhaf on April 6 but changed its course on April 4 and is now in the Red Sea. The STX Kolt was due to arrive at Balhaf on April 4 but was diverted on April 1 and is currently sitting off the northern coast of Oman.

The third tanker, Grace Acacia, was due to arrive at the Yemen LNG plant on April 10 but was diverted on April 8 and is currently headed north in the Arabian Sea.

Last month, a Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes in Yemen against Houthi rebels, which caused Yemen to shut its major seaports in late March.

Despite port closures, companies are still able to do ship-to-ship transfers, though some cargoes have been delayed as a result, an industry source in Yemen said.

Yemen's Aden Refinery was supposed to issue a tender last week to seek oil products for May, but has now suspended the tender process, added the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with media.

Yemen last bought 660,000 tons of gasoil for delivery over February to April from Vitol, Glencore, Horus, IPG and Energen.

Aden Refinery entered the spot market this year for the first time in months after Saudi Arabia suspended most of its financial aid to the country. [ID:nL4N0V0369 ]

Still, other oil shipments have been flowing to Yemen as normal, shipbrokers and traders said.

For instance, the 73,723 dwt tanker Nordic Anne chartered by IPG to carry a 60,000 tonne gasoil cargo from South Korea to Aden is still headed for Yemen to unload and is due to complete unloading by April 22, a Singapore-based shipbroker said.

If the situation in Yemen changed, there would be “dialogue (with the charterer) to find out how best to handle the situation,” an executive at Danish shipowner Nordic Shipholding said.

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