A vacuum gasoil (VGO) cargo from Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk is travelling directly to the US Gulf coast this month, reflecting a shift in regional export dynamics.

The medium-range (MR)-sized vessel Red Garnet loaded around 40,000t of VGO from Novorossiysk on 8 April—the only Black-Sea loaded transatlantic VGO voyage noted in April so far, according to Vortexa data.

The vessel is currently heading to Houston, Texas and is due to arrive there in the first week of May.

April’s exports from any Black Sea port to the US and Caribbean are broadly in line with recent months, with most of these volumes heading to the Caribbean.

Unlike the Red Garnet, VGO cargoes were not seen moving straight from Novorossiysk to US ports in the past half year.

But in recent months, Novorossiysk-loaded volumes consistently headed to Freeport, Bahamas, via ship-to-ship transfer onto other vessels at Malta. From the Bahamas hub, VGO could be re-exported to the US Gulf coast.

Refinery modernisations crimp flows

Total observed Novorossiysk VGO exports have declined from the previous year, amid the 2017 start-up of a VGO hydrocracking facility at Lukoil’s 290,000 b/d Volgograd refinery, which appears to have outweighed the impact of new supplies from elsewhere.

The 90,000 b/d Afipsky refinery loaded its first VGO cargo through Novorossiysk mid-last year following the start-up of its vacuum distillation unit (VDU). VGO from other regional refineries can also be loaded via Novorossiysk.