LONDON -- Norwegian oil and gas major Statoil ASA will ship up to 4 million barrels of North Sea crude grades to Asia in May, providing much-needed support to oil prices in the North Sea market, according to crude traders and a shipping fixture seen by Dow Jones Newswires Tuesday.
Statoil chartered the Very Large Crude Carrier, or VLCC, Front Tina to ship crude from the Norwegian port of Mongstad to South Korea on May 20, and the VLCC Maersk Hirado to sail from Mongstad to Singapore on May 25, the fixture showed.
The cost of each shipping is $6.5 million, according to the fixture.
North Sea crude traders said that at least one of the vessels is likely to carry some Forties crude, the main component of global benchmark Brent.
Last month, shipping company Scanports chartered the VLCC Atlantas to ship Forties to South Korea on May 15, shipbrokers have said.
"As only the arbitrage to Asia helps Forties prices to stay at current levels, I think it's unlikely that only one VLCC is heading there [in May]," one North Sea trader said Tuesday.
Forties crude prices have been pressured in recent weeks by seasonally low demand from refiners due to maintenance and ample alternative supply.
In Monday's price-setting late-afternoon trade, Shell offered a Forties cargo at a five-cent discount to physical benchmark Brent, but there were no buyers.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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