Supertankers Shift to Diesel Amid Houthi Attacks

Supertankers Shift to Diesel Amid Houthi Attacks

Rafaela Santos
2 min read

Supertankers Shift from Crude to Diesel Transport Amid Houthi Attacks

Amidst escalating Houthi attacks disrupting shipping routes, there has been a notable shift in the transport methods of supertankers. These vessels are now opting for diesel transport over crude oil, significantly impacting global fuel markets. It is anticipated that at least 14 million barrels of diesel will be transported via very large crude carriers (VLCCs), with numerous vessels already en route to Europe. This shift has led to a surge in earnings for smaller clean tankers, which are now navigating longer routes around Africa, while benchmark crude tanker rates experience a decline.

The increased ton-miles, a measure of cargo volume and distance, for refined fuels originating from the Middle East is now projected to rise by 17%, up from an initial forecast of 13%. This transition has also contributed to fluctuations in diesel prices in Europe as a result of the simultaneous arrival of large fuel volumes. Additionally, Suezmaxes, capable of carrying one million barrels each, are also making the transition to clean petroleum products, with approximately 12 vessels expected to make the switch in the near future.

Key Takeaways

  • VLCCs have shifted to diesel transport due to Houthi attacks, with an expected transport of 14 million barrels.
  • Earnings for smaller clean tankers have surged, while benchmark crude tanker rates have declined due to increased sailing distances.
  • Anticipated rise in diesel imports to Europe is projected to significantly impact benchmark diesel prices.
  • The forecasted increase in ton-miles for refined fuels from the Middle East stands at a substantial 17%.
  • Saudi Arabia's seaborne oil flows dwindled by 1.08 million barrels per day in June, further complicating the market.


The shift from crude to diesel transport by VLCCs as a response to Houthi disruptions is reverberating through global fuel markets, resulting in increased earnings for smaller tankers and causing volatility in European diesel prices. The 17% increase in ton-miles for refined fuels from the Middle East indicates longer routes and heightened costs. Moreover, Saudi Arabia's decreased oil exports are contributing to market complexities, affecting financial instruments and fuel distributors. In the short term, European diesel prices may experience fluctuations, while in the long term, this shift could potentially reshape global shipping routes and fuel distribution networks, under the influence of geopolitical tensions and evolving market demands.

Did You Know?

  • VLCCs (Very Large Crude Carriers):
    • VLCCs are massive ships designed to transport crude oil, typically capable of carrying up to 2 million barrels of oil.
    • The shift from crude oil to diesel transport by VLCCs signifies a significant change in the shipping industry's response to disruptions, impacting global fuel distribution and market dynamics.
  • Ton-miles:
    • Ton-miles is a measure utilized in the shipping industry to quantify the total transport work done, combining the weight of the cargo (in tons) and the distance traveled (in miles).
    • The increase in ton-miles for refined fuels from the Middle East reflects a rise in the volume of diesel being transported over longer distances, indicative of changes in trade routes and market demands.
  • Suezmaxes:
    • Suezmaxes are tankers specifically designed to transit the Suez Canal with the maximum possible load, typically carrying around 1 million barrels of oil.
    • The transition of Suezmaxes to clean petroleum products emphasizes the adaptability of the shipping industry to geopolitical and market pressures, influencing both the routes and the types of cargo carried.

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