China's imports of fuel oil rose 10% in April from a year earlier to 2.93 million metric tons, data from the General Administration of Customs showed on Monday, which is the highest level since at least 2020 according to Reuters' records. The April imports were 48% higher than in March, as traders brought in more shipments from Venezuela and Iran, according to trading sources familiar with the transactions.

The import volumes included purchases under ordinary trade, which are subject to import duty and consumption tax, as well as imports into bonded storage. Imports into the bonded tanks reached 2.21 million tons, also the highest since at least 2020. "Higher supplies from Venezuela due to the relaxation of sanctions contributed to the higher volumes. Refiners' margins processing the heavier materials were also supportive," said one Chinese trading executive.

Imports trended higher as some refiners ramped up purchases before prices strengthened further, amid a global rally in the high sulphur fuel oil market in the second quarter this year. Meanwhile, fuel oil export volumes, mostly of low-sulphur fuel oil, in April were at 1.64 million tons, up 10% from the corresponding month last year. Exports rose from the same month last year as global bunker demand firmed amid geopolitical shipping disruptions this year. The exports are measured mostly by sales from bonded storage for vessels plying international routes.

The tables below show China's fuel oil exports and imports in metric tons. The exports section largely captures China's low sulphur oil bunkering sales along its coast. Exports Bonded storage yr/yr %change Jan 1,674,002 33% Feb 1,173,447 -24% Mar 1,315,242 -32% Apr 1,636,457 20% Imports Ordinary Bonded Total y/y % trade storage change trade Jan 737,451 1,414,318 2,151,769 78% Feb 599,867 842,089 1,441,956 -18% Mar 727,674 1,250,129 1,977,803 -19% Apr 725,664 2,207,164 2,932,828 10% (Figures are based on latest available data at the time of publishing, and may be subject to revision by China customs at a later date) (Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Writing by Emily Chow and Jeslyn Lerh; Editing by Sonali Paul)