Poten's Weekly Opinion: All Roads Lead To China

Sep 21 2021

Tanker owners can no longer take Chinese growth for granted.

Over the last two decades, China’s oil demand growth has propelled the tanker market upwards and onwards. China’s rapid economic development was largely responsible for the 2004-2008 “Super Cycle” in the shipping markets (not only in tankers, but in dry cargo and containers as well). China’s oil demand grew from 4.7 million barrels per day (Mb/d) in 2000 to 13.8 Mb/d in 2020, an average annual growth rate of 5.5%. China rapidly expanded its refining sector to meet domestic demand. Since China’s domestic oil production has been steady and fairly limited (approximately 4.0 Mb/d), the growth in oil demand translated almost 100% in additional crude oil imports. China has become by far the largest crude oil importer in the world. In recent years, however, we have seen several changes in China that cast doubt on whether the Middle Kingdom will be the same dominant force in the future as it was in the last two decades. Some of these changes may be temporary (such as the impact of the Coronavirus), but others are likely to be permanent. The impact of these developments on the tanker market could be significant.


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