LONDON - More than half of Angola's March-loading cargoes have been sold, a trader said on Friday, adding that high premiums for West African crude are beginning to plateau as European refiners kick off springtime maintenance.

* Only about 10 to 12 cargoes Angola's March-loading cargoes are left, the trader said, from the 34 scheduled for the month. Angola's loading programme emerged in mid-January.

* Differentials for West African crude, which does not necessitate traversing the Suez Canal to reach Europe, have climed in recent weeks amid growing demand thanks to the persistent Red Sea crisis.

* Nigerian Bonny Light was offered at dated Brent plus $2.20 a barrel for an end-February cargo while other grades, including Escravos and Forcados, had premiums around $4.50 plus dated Brent or higher, traders estimated this week.

* The growth in differentials appears to be pausing after the upward trend as more refineries in Europe go into maintenance mode, the trader said.

* Refinery maintenance in Europe commonly occurs in springtime and autumn.

* A range of refineries have announced their maintenance schedules for early 2024, including Shell which is set to perform maintenance on Europe's largest refinery - the over 400,000 bpd capacity Pernis plant in Rotterdam - from the end of January until April.

* European buyers also have access to available crude from other geographies, including the United States, Latin America and Guyana, the trader added.

* Seperately, India's IOC purchased cargoes of Nigerian grade Akpo from Glencore and 1 million barrels of West African crude from Exxon in its latest-buy tender, another trader said.

(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Louise Heavens)