China's fuel oil imports cooled in May after hitting multi-year highs in April, data showed on Thursday. May imports totalled 2.15 million metric tons (about 441,180 barrels per day), 27% lower than April and 19% down from a year earlier, according to General Administration of Customs data. Demand retreated after prices rose in line with firming cracks of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) in Asia, trade sources said. Cracks for 380-cst HSFO rallied to their strongest in nine months towards the end of May, data from LSEG showed. China's fuel oil import volumes in April surged to their highest since at least 2020 as traders brought in more shipments from Venezuela and Iran, while some refiners ramped up purchases for use as feedstock before prices increased further.

The import volumes included purchases under ordinary trade, which are subject to import duty and consumption tax, as well as imports into bonded storage. Meanwhile, fuel oil export volumes for bunkering totalled 1.66 million tons in May, up 1% from April but down 10% from the corresponding month last 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 m/m % y/y % (2024) trade change change January 1,674,002 11% 33% February 1,173,447 -30% -24% March 1,315,242 12% -32% April 1,636,457 24% 20% May * 1,660,323 1% -10% Imports Ordinary Bonded storage Total m/m % y/y % (2024) trade trade change change January 737,451 1,414,318 2,151,769 5% 78% February 599,867 842,089 1,441,956 -33% -18% March 727,674 1,250,129 1,977,803 37% -19% April 725,664 2,207,164 2,932,828 48% 10% May * 592,343 1,561,447 2,153,790 -27% -19% (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) (1 metric ton = 6.35 barrels for fuel oil conversion) (Reporting by Jeslyn Lerh; Editing by Sonia Cheema)