Shipping number of the week: 1.9 million tonnes – net seaborne US crude oil exports set record
October was the first month in which the US exported more crude oil by sea than it imported, with exports reaching a new record of 12.95 million tonnes.
Imports on the other hand, have fallen since the start of the year and totalled 11.1 million tonnes in October this year, compared to 16.9 million tonnes in October 2018.
Overall, while growing exports are in themselves a good thing for the shipping industry, looking closer at the numbers in fact reveals some, albeit temporary, bad news. Exports have risen by 38 million tonnes in the first ten months of the year, but in the same time imports have fallen by 45.4 million tonnes, lowering the demand for shipping.
The US Gulf is the driving factor behind the increasing exports, with net exports in the Gulf ports of 41.3 in the first ten months of 2019. Houston is the largest exporting port, responsible for 65% of total US seaborne crude oil exports so far this year.
While growth in exports has primarily been driven by the US Gulf Coast ports, it is also here where the biggest falls in imports have occurred. During the first ten months of the year imports through Houston are down 25.4% (to 26.7 million tonnes), New Orleans are down 48.9% (to 16.1 million tonnes) and Port Arthur are down by 38.7% (to 14.2 million tonnes).
When considering total imports, rather than just seaborne, the US remains a net importer of crude oil. Especially non-seaborne imports from Canada skew the balance.
The US is one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world. It’s exports have risen quickly since the US congress lifted a ban on US crude oil exports in December 2018.