The Mideast Gulf region increased gasoline exports to OPEC-member Nigeria in January-February, as the country pulled in volumes from a more diverse range of providers to fill its ongoing supply crunch of clean petroleum products.

At least two Mideast Gulf shipments of what are likely gasoline have arrived in Nigerian waters in March so far, according to Vortexa data.

The medium range (MR) vessel Magnifica loaded from Saudi Arabia’s Yanbu port and the long-range (LR1) vessel BW Columbia loaded from Fujairah’s Vopak Horizon terminal in the UAE. Both arrived offshore Lagos this month after loading in early February. The latter vessel was chartered by Socar to move 60,000t of gasoline along the route, shipping fixtures showed.

Another LR1 vessel likely carrying gasoline, the Flagship Sage, departed Yanbu in mid-February and is expected in Lagos around 9 March.

Last month Nigeria received at least one shipment of what was likely gasoline from the Mideast Gulf region when the Yanbu-loaded LR1 Okyroe arrived mid-month. The vessel had been booked by Sahara to move 60,000t of clean petroleum products from Yanbu to west Africa.

Fuel crunch

Nigeria has been experiencing an acute shortage of gasoline since the end of last-year, as ailing refineries running at low capacity utilisation rates fail to meet demand.

The country typically imports most of its gasoline requirements under the annual Direct Sale Direct Purchase (DSDP) program which allows approved companies to swap crude cargoes for oil products.

Recently Nigeria’s state oil company NNPC was thought to have topped up DSDP provisions by additional spot purchases from the market, although it is unclear if this has been sufficient to meet demand. Private gasoline imports meanwhile are constrained by limited foreign exchange availability.

As such the recent Mideast Gulf gasoline arrivals are contributing to soaring levels of imports for the west Africa region. While its main source of supply is from the European region— primarily northwest Europe, it has also recently received increased volumes from the Baltics, Mediterranean and North Sea regions, as well as from more unusual suppliers.

That said, the number of clean petroleum product tankers sitting outside the ports of Lagos and Lome in Togo suggests some level of congestion that may be constricting quick supply of the motor fuel to market.

Closing arb

The unusual Mideast Gulf-west Africa gasoline arbitrage looked to have closed again as additional vessels booked in early February for the same route are instead heading to Asia-Pacific.

These bookings included the Flagship Ivy, chartered by Sahara to load 60,000t gasoline on 6-11 February from Yanbu for west Africa. The vessel loaded from Yanbu on 12 February and is heading towards Yeosu, South Korea.

The River Shiner was initially chartered by Total to load gasoline from Yanbu on 24 February-1 March for west Africa but is instead heading to Singapore, after loading from Yanbu on 1 March.