LONDON, May 17 (Reuters) – Outages in the North Sea, issues with Russian pipelines and reduced exports from some Mediterranean exporting countries have combined to make West African grades more attractive to European customers, traders said on Friday.

Climbing gasoline refining margins were also giving a boost to the lighter crude grades.

NIGERIA

* North Sea Forties crude differentials rose on Thursday to the highest level since early 2016, as an outage to the relatively small Flotta stream has added to supply curbs affecting Ekofisk and Statfjord.

* These reduced exports, along with supply issues related to Russian pipeline contamination issues and a slight drop in Mediterranean output, has raised European appetite for West African crude.

* Three Suezmaxes were recently scheduled to bring West