Louisiana's Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) has confirmed the first VLCC crude oil loading operation at its deepwater port.
The largest privately-owned crude terminal in the US named Shell's Houston, Texas-based trading arm as the shipper of record.
LOOP has been testing its loading and unloading procedures with a VLCC tanker moored on site since last week, but Shell has yet to confirm the LOOP statement or the vessel it is using for the export.
Multiple AIS data trackers show the VLCC Shaden making the journey from the nearby Freeport anchorage off Galveston, Texas, on 10 February and arriving on site at the LOOP terminal on 12 February. The 298,000 dwt vessel is owned by Bahri in Saudi Arabia – part of one of the world's top VLCC fleets – and was delivered in 2017 by Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries.
Only one set of AIS updates from the vessel have been recorded since the evening of 12 February, when Shaden arrived at the LOOP facility. This most recent update came on 18 February, with the vessel making a short move to the southeast. Bloomberg data has suggested the vessel is headed to China and that Shaden was booked last month by Unipec, the oil-trading arm of Sinopec.
As the only US port capable of fully loading a VLCC, LOOP said its ability to load supertankers helped to “optimise America's energy supply chain” by allowing inbound vessels delivering foreign crude oil to leave the facility with US crude oil cargoes. LOOP said it is currently preparing its 2018 shipping schedule.
LOOP president Tom Shaw said “There could not be a better time to offer this service as domestic production surpasses 10M barrels per day in the ever dynamic global crude oil market.”
Final works to connect LOOP's Clovelly Hub in Galliano, Louisiana, to its deepwater port 18 miles offshore involved modifications that allow the facility to operate bi-directionally and without shuttle tankers. The move is widely seen as an indicator of market interest in US crude as well as signalling US intent to increase national crude exports.
LOOP began seeking shipping partners in the project in July 2017, and last week the group said it had moored a VLCC on site and begun a “detailed test and checkout procedure”.