LONDON (Bloomberg) — Oil tankers exporting Kazakh and Russian crude from ports in the Black Sea are contending with spiraling delays when navigating Turkey’s key shipping straits, stalling the delivery of millions of bbl of supplies to refineries on the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.
The lengthening queues to pass through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits are due to a change in rules back in September requiring more vessels to be escorted by tugboats, according to Tribeca Shipping, a local port agent. It estimates that tankers holding about 39 MMbo are backed up. Bad weather has also contributed.
“The refineries in the Mediterranean are very soon going to start feeling the pinch on this if the delays continue or get worse,” said James Davis, director of short-term global oil service at Facts Global Energy, adding that there are signs the issues may be getting resolved, which should lessen the impact.
The Turkish straits are a choke point for global oil supplies because crude from Kazakhstan, Russia and Azerbaijan must pass through the waterways in order to reach international markets. Those shipments — particularly from Kazakhstan — have surged in recent years, exceeding 2 MMbopd for sustained periods in late 2018.
As well as impeding outflows, tankers are also waiting longer to enter the Black Sea to get to export terminals. Loadings at the Russian port of Novorossiysk and the nearby CPC terminal have run behind schedule this month, according to tracking data and shipping programs compiled by Bloomberg.
Tankers are waiting about 13 days to pass through the shipping straits in order to exit the Black Sea, the longest waiting times since at least 2014 and more than double the norm, according to Tribeca. Vessels moving in the opposite direction are waiting about 15 days.