Russia surpassed Saudi Arabia to become China’s largest oil supplier in 2023, Reuters reported, citing Chinese customs data.
According to the report, Russia shipped 107.02 million metric tons of crude oil to China last year, which is the equivalent of 2.14 million barrels per day.
The price of Russian crude oil has dropped amid Western sanctions and a Western-imposed price cap, making it more attractive to Chinese buyers. Both penalties were imposed in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
According to the Reuters report, Chinese refiners bypass Western sanctions by using intermediaries for shipping and insuring Russian oil.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced on Jan. 18 sanctions against the shipping company Hennesea Holdings Limited for violating the $60 per barrel price cap on Russian crude.
This comes as another case of Washington slapping sanctions against the price cap violators. The Group of Seven (G7) countries vowed to enforce the measure after Russia managed to ship out much of its crude above $ 60 per barrel by using a "ghost fleet" of mostly uninsured tankers.
The OFAC identified the United Arab Emirates-based Hennesea as the ultimate owner of 18 vessels, including the HS Atlantica, that have transported Russian crude above the price cap.