Bloomberg News

China to Overtake U.S. as Biggest Tanker User: Chart of the Day

April 15, 2012

China will pass the U.S. in 2013 as the biggest user of tankers carrying oil at sea as Asian imports travel over longer distances and fewer cargoes go to the world’s biggest economy, according to Arctic Securities ASA.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows tanker use based on ton-mile demand, which multiplies cargo size by voyage length, is rising for China and dropping for the U.S., according to figures from the Oslo-based investment bank. Chinese tanker usage will gain 18 percent to 2.43 trillion ton-miles by 2013 as the U.S. falls 13 percent to 2.36 trillion, Arctic estimates.

“While U.S. seaborne imports are set to decline as a result of higher domestic production, falling refinery capacity on the U.S. East Coast and increased pipeline imports from Canada will have a negative impact on tanker demand,” Erik Nikolai Stavseth, an Arctic analyst, said yesterday by e-mail.

China will account for 25 percent of oil-tanker demand by 2015, against 19 percent for the U.S., according to Arctic. U.S. seaborne imports of crude will decline to 7.6 million barrels a day by that year, the lowest level since 1995, from 8.3 million this year, the bank estimates.

Sunoco Inc. and ConocoPhillips have closed or idled refineries in Pennsylvania. Sunoco plans to shut a plant in Philadelphia by July unless it finds a buyer. Asian refineries will add a further 4.3 million barrels a day of capacity by the end of 2015, and newer plants in the region can handle low-grade Middle East and Latin American crudes, Stavseth said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Wiese Bockmann in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Alaric Nightingale at

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