China's April fuel oil imports surged further from the prior month, almost hitting a decade-high, while exports of low-sulphur marine fuels plunged from March, General Administration of Customs data showed on Saturday. Total fuel oil imports last month jumped almost three times from a year earlier to 2.67 million tonnes, a level not seen since May 2013.

"The ongoing crackdown on cargoes mislabeled as 'diluted bitumen' could keep fuel oil as the preferred alternative feedstock for smaller independents without crude import quotas," said consultancy FGE late Friday. Apart from this, China has been stepping up fuel oil purchases for use as refinery feedstocks since late 2022, led by firm appetite for discounted and blended barrels of Russian fuel loaded out of Malaysia. The exports, measured mostly by sales from bonded storage for vessels plying international routes, totalled 1.36 million tonnes in April, down 30% from March.

Within Asia, more shippers have opted to refuel at Singapore instead of Chinese ports as prices were more competitive at Singapore, according to trade sources. Prices of bunker fuel delivered at the key Chinese port Zhoushan were $5 to $20 higher than prices at Singapore in April, they said. The table below shows China's fuel oil imports and exports in metric tonnes.

The exports section largely captures China's low-sulphur oil bunkering sales along its coast. Exports Bonded storage m/m % y/y % (2023) trade change change January 1,254,080 11% -46% February 1,535,577 22% 17% March 1,953,559 27% 38% April 1,363,152 -30% 12.1% Imports Ordinary Bonded Total m/m % y/y % (2023) trade storage change change trade January 569,376 640,022 1,209,399 -31% 47% February 424,254 1,331,623 1,755,877 45% 103% March 752,172 1,680,788 2,432,960 39% 149% April 614,322 2,051,381 2,665,703 10% 277.1%

(Reporting by Jeslyn Lerh and Dominique Patton; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)