NEW YORK/LONDON - About a half dozen tankers carrying diesel from the Middle East and India are making rare journeys to New York, including the first cargo from Qatar in two years, as shippers take advantage of recent three-year highs for U.S. diesel prices.
But that window may have already slammed shut, as diesel prices have retreated in tandem with this week’s broad selloff among energy benchmarks. Since hitting a high of $2.1431/gallon on Jan. 26, diesel has dropped as much as 11 percent, and other tankers slated for New York have already been diverted elsewhere.
As benchmark U.S. diesel prices surged after a cold blast hit the U.S. East Coast, at least six tankers carrying nearly 4 million barrels of diesel from the Middle East and India arrived in New York, according to traders and Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.
The Phoenix Dream, Densa Alligator, Front Altair, Amorea, Seaenvoy and the Minerva Aries arrived in New York between Jan. 21 and Feb. 6, Reuters Vessel Tracking data showed.
Two more vessels, Sea Jewel and the FPMC P Hero, are set to arrive in the next 10 days. The Sea Jewel would be the first diesel cargo from Qatar since February 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
“Just that distillate is coming in is a little surprising, wherever it is coming from,” Mark Routt, chief economist for the Americas at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston. “The Qatari cargo has jumped over Europe.”
Since the price decline, at least four other vessels initially bound for New York are now headed to Europe, according to sources familiar with the fixtures and Reuters data.
Both the Gulf Valour, expected to arrive in New York next week, and the Minerva Indiana, scheduled to reach the harbor in early March, will head to Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Shipments of diesel from the Middle East to New York are rare. Half of Europe’s auto fleet uses diesel and the continent’s limited refining production means it is almost always more lucrative to ship there. Europe has historically relied on a steady stream of diesel from the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Russia’s low-sulphur diesel exports have increased massively after pipeline expansions, providing more diesel to Europe’s backyard and undercutting prices in the region to an extent.
Overall, diesel demand remains robust and as refinery maintenance season kicks off, traders anticipate hefty declines in inventories and stronger prices to attract more imports.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Libby George in London; Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Liz Hampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker
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