MOSCOW, May 26 (Reuters) - The sea ports in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are still playing an active role in the export of Russia's oil products despite Moscow's pledges to completely cut the transit, traders said and Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Thursday.
Russia has increased its crude oil and oil product exporting capacity on the Baltic Sea, seeking to cut its dependence on other outlets amid political tensions with neighbouring ex-Soviet republics.
In spring of 2016 Russia suspended rail shipments of fuel oil and VGO (vacuum gasoil) from domestic oil plants to the ports of Latvia and Estonia, while rail exports of light refined products via the ports of the Baltic states have been banned since May 2017.
As a result, traders have switched to other shipping routes: Russia's Ust-Luga started switching transhipments of VGO from rail to sea vessels, and some volumes of VGO and alkylates were shipped by river-sea vessels along the Volga-Baltic canal to the ports of Sillamаe in Estonia and Klaipeda in Lithuania.
However, Latvia's and Estonia's terminals continue to receive and tranship fuel of Russian origin, which is delivered by sea from the ports of Ust-Luga, St. Petersburg and Vysotsk.
Sea exports of gasoline and naphtha from Russian Baltic and Arctic ports to the ports of Baltic states have grown almost six-fold in five years - from 0.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 2.86 million in 2020, of which 2.53 million tonnes accounted for shipment from Ust-Luga, the data from Refinitiv Eikon showed.
The Latvian port of Ventspils accounts for about half of the total volume, some 20% ends up in the Estonian port of Paldiski.
Seaborne exports of fuel oil from Russian Baltic ports to Estonia in 2020 rose to 1.4 million tonnes from 0.45 million tonnes in 2019 and continues to rise in 2021, with over 0.77 million tonnes delivered since the start of the year, Refinitiv data shows.
In the spring of 2020, when the global demand for oil products plummeted due to coronavirus lockdowns across the world, traders used the massive tank farms in Baltic ports to store excess volumes of Russian fuel.
In addition to storage itself, the tank farms in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania offer a verity of opportunities for segregating oil products, as well as providing different blending options - a service that is practically not available in Russia's Baltic ports.
(Natalia Chumakova, Gleb Gorodyankin, writing by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by David Evans)
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