Vessel tracking data shows a veteran suezmax tanker has been waiting off Ghana’s new refinery for months with a cargo of Russian crude.

Information from analytics company Kpler shows the 159,000-dwt Snow Lotus (built 2004) arrived off the port of Tema to discharge oil for the Sentuo plant in February.

The ship remained off the port on Thursday.

Kpler said Sentuo has not received any crude imports this year, after becoming operational on 26 January.

The country’s sole operational refinery has been running at a capacity of 40,000 barrels per day.

The reason for the delay in offloading is not clear.

In 2023, Sentuo imported three cargoes of western Russian crude and one cargo of Nigerian-grade Bonny Light.

The Snow Lotus is fully laden with Varandey crude from Lukoil’s Kola floating storage and offloading unit in the Arctic.

Varandey is produced from the Timan-Pechora oilfields.

The Panama-flagged tanker’s insurer is not known. The ship is the former Lila Guangzhou, sold by Lila Global in 2022.

Crude inventory falls

Equasis lists the technical manager as Pacific Shipmanagement of Qingdao, China, with the owner being CL Shipping in Hong Kong, neither of which could be contacted.

The refinery has been contacted for further information.

Ghana’s crude inventory has dropped to a two-year low of 270,000 barrels, down from 620,000 barrels in November 2023, Kpler said.

“This significant decline suggests that the Sentuo refinery may have either run out of crude or is processing at a much lower rate than reported,” the company added.

Sentuo was conceived from the Chinese government’s Belt and Road development strategy for the oil and gas industry in China and Africa.

Initial production capacity is 2m tonnes per year, in a bid to reduce Ghana’s reliance on overseas product imports.

It is owned by a privately held Chinese conglomerate. Phase two construction works will build capacity to 5m tonnes per year.