By Andrew Hayley
       BEIJING, April 20 (Reuters) - Russia remained China's
top oil supplier in March, data showed on Saturday, as refiners
snapped up stranded Sokol shipments. 
    China's imports from Russia, including supplies via
pipelines and sea-borne shipments, jumped 12.5% on the year to
10.81 million metric tons, or 2.55 million barrels per day (bpd)
last month, according to data from the General Administration of
    That was quite close to the previous monthly record of 2.56
million bpd in June 2023. 
    Seven Russian tankers under sanctions offloaded Sokol
cargoes in Chinese ports in March, as Russia worked to clear a
glut of stranded supply in the wake of tightened U.S. sanctions.
    More than 10 million barrels of the oil supplied by
Sakhalin-1, a unit of Rosneft, had been floating in
storage over the past three months amid payment difficulties and
sanctions on shipping firms and vessels carrying the crude.
    Stockpiling of Russian crude for storage in strategic
reserves by state-owned CNOOC also boosted imports from Russia. 
    Data from consultancy Kpler forecast sea-borne shipments
from Russia hitting a record high of 1.82 million bpd, including
440,000 bpd of Sokol and 967,000 of ESPO.
    Russia was China's top supplier throughout 2023, shipping
2.14 million bpd despite Western sanctions and a price cap
following the Kremlin's 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 
    In coordination with other OPEC+ members, Russia opted to
roll forward a voluntary reduction in crude oil output of
300,000 bpd into the first quarter of the year to support energy
    Imports from Saudi Arabia, previously China's largest
supplier, totalled 6.3 million tons in March, or 1.48 million
bpd, down 29.3% on the same period last year. 
    Riyadh has said it would extend its voluntary cut of 1
million bpd through the end of June, leaving its output at
around 9 million bpd. 
    The world's top exporter kept the March official selling
price of its flagship Arab Light to Asia at $1.50 over the
Oman/Dubai average as the Kingdom sought to secure market share.
    January-March imports from Malaysia, a trans-shipment point
for sanctioned cargoes from Iran and Venezuela, soared 39.2% on
the year to 13.7 million tons, or 3.23 million bpd.
    The data showed 375,296 tons of imports from Venezuela,
following a rare shipment of 352,455 tons of Venezuelan crude in
February amid a temporary relaxation of U.S. sanctions on
Caracas. Sanctions were re-imposed from Thursday after the U.S.
said President Nicolas Maduro had failed to meet his election
    Customs recorded no imports from Iran. 
    Below lists imports from main suppliers with volumes in
million metric tons and year-on-year percentage change
calculations by Reuters: 
   Country     Amount in March  % Change    YTD     YTD %
                                           Total    Change
    Russia          10.81        12.5%     28.53    12.8%
    Saudi           6.30        -29.25%    19.79    -13.3%
     Iraq           5.42         -10.7%    15.57    -0.8%
   Malaysia         4.76          4.5%     13.70    39.2%
     UAE            4.06          9.4%     10.46     1.7%
     Oman           3.62         -5.0%     10.11     3.7%
   Brazil           3.58         -1.5%     9.52     -3.9%
    Angola          2.35         19.6%     7.03     12.6%
    Kuwait          1.16         -65.8%    3.73     -48.2%
      US            0.43         -52.6%    2.21     -13.4%
  Venezuela         0.38          N/A      0.73      N/A
    Iran            0.00          N/A      0.00      N/A
 (ton = 7.3 barrels for crude oil conversion)

 (Reporting by Andrew Hayley and Amy Lv; editing by David Evans
and Shri Navaratnam)