U.S. soybean cargo heading to China switches destination amid trade row

BEIJING (Reuters) - A vessel carrying soybeans from the United States to China changed its destination to South Korea on Thursday, shipping data showed, amid a trade war that has decimated U.S. shipments of the commodity to the world’s top oilseed importer.

The Star Laura, carrying 36,000 tonnes of American soybeans loaded in Seattle in late September, was due to arrive in the eastern Chinese port of Qingdao on Wednesday, according to shipping data on Refinitiv Eikon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in mid-October that the size of the cargo was 69,298 tonnes.

The vessel changed its destination to Yeosu in South Korea early on Thursday morning, the data showed.

Star Laura was one of only a handful of U.S. soybean cargoes to have set sail for China in recent months, as buyers have largely steered clear of U.S. supplies on worries that Beijing will issue further curbs on imports.

U.S. soybeans entering China have been subject to additional tariffs of 25 percent since July 6 when Beijing retaliated in response to U.S. taxes on Chinese goods.

At least two other vessels carrying U.S. soybeans to China have changed course in the past month, suggesting the original buyer has resold the cargo to other markets.

The Audacity, which loaded almost 70,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans in Seattle on Oct. 21, changed its destination from Qingdao to Phu My in Vietnam on Sunday, Refinitiv data showed.

The Golden Empress, which loaded in Louisiana in late September and was originally headed to Qingdao, appeared to have switched destination to Singapore on Oct. 23, according to the data.

Two other vessels have recently reached China but do not appear to have unloaded their cargo, the shipping data showed. The Ultra Panther, carrying 66,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, has been moored in Beihai on the south coast for well over a month and is at 88-percent draft.

The Elsa S, which reached Qingdao in late September with a cargo of soybeans, is also at 88-percent draft.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger