Saudi Arabia seeks to charter more supertankers in oil export push, sources says

FILE PHOTO: An oil tanker is being loaded at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. Picture taken May 21, 2018. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s national shipping firm, Bahri, has provisionally chartered up to 31 supertankers, up from 19 vessels sought earlier this week, shipping sources said on Friday, in sign that the Kingdom is looking to flood world markets with crude oil.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia had said on Wednesday it would launch a programme to boost production capacity for the first time in more than a decade, signalling to Russia and other rivals it was ready for a long battle over production levels and market share.

Shipping sources said the number of supertankers Bahri was seeking to conclude charters for had risen to up to 31 from 19 on Wednesday. Each of these vessels, known as very large crude carriers, can carry a maximum of 2 million barrels of oil.

Shipping data showed Bahri had fully concluded charters for 12 of those tankers so far, which would equate to 24 million barrels of crude oil. Five of those are headed to the United States.

At least four further vessels were being sought for the United States, shipping data showed.

Reporting by Jonathan Saul in London and Devika Krishna Kumar in New York. Editing by Jane Merriman