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By Devika Krishna Kumar and Collin Eaton
NEW YORK/HOUSTON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - South Korea’s top refiner, SK Energy, chartered a supertanker to ship U.S. crude to South Korea in November for a record $10 million as freight rates surge after the United States imposed sanctions on a Chinese firm, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
The company fixed the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Maxim to load between Nov. 8 and Nov. 12, three shipping sources said. It was the highest-priced shipment from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Asia on record, based on data going back to about 2013, before a ban on U.S. crude exports was lifted, two of the sources said.
South Korea is the second-biggest buyer of U.S. crude this year, behind Canada, with U.S. shipments totaling 531,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July, up from 226,000 bpd in the same month last year, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
SK could not immediately be reached for comment.
Freight rates skyrocketed after the United States last week imposed sanctions on two units of China’s COSCO, alleging involvement in ferrying crude out of Iran. U.S. Gulf Coast exporters have held back on chartering COSCO-linked vessels and scrambled to replace those already on charter, traders and shipbrokers said.
The surge in tanker rates is likely to temper export demand for November-loading cargoes, traders said.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in New York and Collin Eaton in Houston; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Steve Orlofsky