MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Urals differentials in northwest Europe continued to ease against dated Brent on Wednesday as availability of alternative oil grades, especially cheap Saudi barrels, and expectations for higher Russian exports in April pushed the grade's values down.
* Saudi Arabia's energy ministry said on Wednesday it has directed national oil company Aramco to continue to supply crude at a record rate of 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd) over the coming months.
* Russia's Surgutneftegaz sold in a spot tender 200,000 tonnes of Urals crude oil for loading from the ports of Primorsk and Ust-Luga in April at lower levels than Tuesday, traders said on Wednesday.
* China's Unipec and Norway's Equinor won one cargo each. Price estimations of the successful bids were as wide as dated Brent minus $4.00-$4.80 a barrel when adding freight to the original free-on-board differential, traders said.
* Shell bought 100,000 tonnes of Urals loading from Baltic ports on April 4-8 from Glencore at dated Brent minus $4.20 per barrel.
* Shell also bought a cargo loading from Baltic ports from Trafigura on April 5-9 at dated Brent minus $4.15 per barrel.
* After a frantic week that sent crude oil freight rates to record highs amid a bookings bonanza to ship Saudi oil, rates are easing as charterers balk at sky-high charges and await Saudi volume plans for April, shipping sources said.
* Traders are scrambling to secure oil storage tanks on land and at sea to cope with slumping demand resulting from the coronavirus outbreak and a flood of supply from the Saudi-Russia price war. (Reporting by Olga Yagova and Gleb Gorodyankin; Editing by Jan Harvey)