Strait of Malacca becomes oil market’s largest transport artery


The transit of oil and petroleum products through the Strait of Malacca, which is located between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra and connects the Indian and Pacific oceans, rose by 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2023, reaching 23.7 million bpd.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the Strait of Malacca has surpassed the Strait of Hormuz in terms of transit volume of raw materials, as the amount of oil and petroleum products transported via the Strait of Hormuz last year totalled 20.9 million bpd

The other 40% comes from four groups of suppliers: Russian producers who transport oil and petroleum products to the east (exports from ports in the European part of the Russian Federation) and to the west (supplies from Sakhalin); the United States, which increased its total exports of oil and petroleum products by almost 20% (from 8.6 million bpd to 10.2 million bpd) in 2021–2023; African countries, which have been reducing their transit volumes through the Strait of Malacca in recent years due to lower production in Angola and Nigeria; and Malaysia and Indonesia, regional oil producers (with a total output of 1.2 million bpd in 2023), which use the Strait of Malacca not only for exports, but also for domestic shipping.

The transit of oil and petroleum products through the Strait of Hormuz dropped by 200,000 bpd (to 20.9 million bpd) in 2023. In addition to the OPEC+ deal, under which Saudi Arabia reduced its oil and gas condensate production by 800,000 bpd (to 11.4 million bpd) in 2023, this was caused by the use of transportation infrastructure bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.

For instance, the UAE has an oil pipeline with a capacity of 1.5 million bpd, through which oil is transported to the port of Fujairah, a major regional hub for oil and petroleum products located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia uses the East-West oil pipeline designed to transport oil to the coast of the Red Sea.

There wasn’t enough time for the Red Sea conflict to seriously affect transit volumes last year: the volume of oil and petroleum transportation through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait adjacent to the Red Sea has gone from 5.4 million bpd in 2021 to 7.5 million bpd in 2022 to 8.6 million bpd in 2023.

As a result, the year 2023 saw the Red Sea become the third-largest transport artery in the oil market, ahead of the Cape of Good Hope (6.0 million bpd), the Danish Straits (4.9 million bpd), the Panama Canal (2.1 million bpd) and Turkey’s Dardanelles (3.4 million bpd).

However, this list is going to change in 2024 due to the aforementioned conflict in the Red Sea. For instance, according to the IMF and Oxford University, the number of tankers with oil, petroleum products and liquefied natural gas (LNG) using the transit route across the Red Sea has fallen by nearly 60%, from 835 in April 2023 to a mere 342 in April 2024.




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