The first Supertanker to be loaded at Louisiana Offshore Port LLC (LOOP) has departed the facility fully laden heading for China, potentially ushering in a new era for U.S. crude exports.

Namely, the Saudi Arabian-flagged very large crude carrier (VLCC) Shaden, which was being used at the facility for test loading of crude oil, has left LOOP and is underway using engine bound for Rizhao, China carrying 2 million barrels of oil, data from Marine Traffic shows.

The 2017-built VLCC, owned by Bahri, left LOOP on Sunday, February 18 and its estimated time of arrival is April 8.

The company said last week that it has made some minor changes to its facility in order to enable large tankers to load crude oil at its complex.

World Maritime News is yet to receive a comment on the shipment from the company.

The move is expected to enable the port to export crude oil via supertankers instead of shuttling oil via smaller tankers. This means that the cost of shipping oil cargoes via ships that can carry two million barrels of oil in a single shipment would be significantly reduced.

LOOP is the owner of the only U.S. crude oil deepwater port, as other ports in the U.S. lack the necessary draft in order to accommodate very large crude carriers.

However, dredging of the Corpus Christi shipping canal is likely to change that, allowing for supertankers to export more oil from the port.

The project is set to widen Corpus Christi Ship Channel to 530 feet to allow for two-way vessel and barge traffic and deepen the channel to 54 feet, allowing for the passage of VLCCs.

According to Energy Analysts International, the Port of Corpus Christi exported more than USD 6 billion of crude oil to U.S. trading partners in 2017.

For the first 10 months of 2017, the U.S. seaborne export of crude oil increased 151 pct compared to same period last year, BIMCO’s figures show. This amounts to an additional 20 million tonnes of crude oil being available to the shipping market, equivalent to 7.5 VLCC cargoes being exported more per month compared to 2016.

During the period the average sailing distance per exported tonne of U.S. crude oil increased to 7,090 nautical miles from 4,277 nautical miles reported in 2016.

The highest demand for U.S. crude oil in 2017 originated from Asia and Europe, with Asia, in particular, being responsible for the longer sailing distances.

World Maritime News Staff; Image Courtesy: Shipspotting/Lappino

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