LONDON - Egypt's SUMED pipeline operator has approached oil traders to ask if they want to book its system to transport crude oil as a stuck container ship could block the Suez Canal for weeks, three trading sources told Reuters on Thursday.
The 400 m (430 yard) vessel is blocking transit in both directions through one of the world's busiest shipping channels for oil and grain and other trade linking Asia and Europe.
Traders have had to replace some empty tankers that were due to head north through the canal to pick up Mediterranean crude. Otherwise, many are gambling that the situation will resolve itself over the next few days.
"Rerouting via the Cape (Africa) could cost about $400,000 extra in freight plus you need to factor in 2-3 weeks of extra travel time," a shipping source said on condition of anonymity.
"At the moment, it's not costing charterers any money ... the closure will affect delivery time but there is no demurrage because there is no clause for the Suez being shut."
Moving oil through SUMED can also be a costly proposition and potentially only attractive to supertankers carrying 2 million barrels, one trader said.
It could cost about 50 cents to $1 per barrel to move the oil through, another trader said, and a change now might still cost the charterer the full freight costs.
SUMED links the Red and Mediterranean Seas with a capacity of over 2.5 million barrels per day. About 1.3 million bpd flowed through the system in 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
The pipeline is majority-owned by Egypt's state oil company EGPC while Saudi Aramco, the Kuwait Investment Authority and Qatar Petroleum have smaller shares.
(Reporting by Ahmad Ghaddar, Julia Payne and Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, Barbara Lewis and Alexander Smith) ((Ahmad.Ghaddar@thomsonreuters.com; +442075424435; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))