25-11-2017

Asia Tankers-VLCC rates to fall further on slow demand, flurry of ships

Hopes for an end-of-year rebound in freight rates for very large crude carriers (VLCCs) have faded as a slow pace of cargoes from charterers threaten to drag rates below breakeven levels, brokers said.

Brokers last week predicted that rates could climb to 75-80 on the Worldscale measure over the next few weeks from W65-W68, but sentiment turned negative after the expected flurry of cargoes failed to materialise.

“By next week we could see rates from the Middle East fall to the mid-W50s,” a Singapore-based supertanker broker said. That would be equivalent to earnings of around $18,500 per day, below vessel breakeven levels of $20,000-$22,000 per day.

“The market is doomed. Really, there is no hope. The optimism of last week has faded,” the broker said.

That follows a weak third quarter where spot earnings fell to four-year lows and some rates dropped to well below operating expenses, Robert Macleod, chief executive of leading tanker owner Frontline, said in an analysts’ call on Wednesday.

Charterers are limiting the number of cargoes they release to be fixed to put downward pressure on charter rates, brokers said. At least two charterers have received 10-15 rate offers from ship owners for Middle East crude cargoes they have put onto the market.

“Charterers are receiving loads of offers. The list of available tonnage is long so there is no reason for them to be too aggressive to fix ships,” the Singapore broker said.

Ashok Sharma, managing director of Singapore ship broker BRS Baxi Far East, said lacklustre demand, possibly caused by traders adopting a wait-and-see attitude ahead of the OPEC oil meeting on Nov. 30 had also impacted the VLCC market.

“There is a lack of arbitrage oil volumes from the west to the east. This lack of arbitrage opportunities has led ships to be released from floating storage while new ships hitting the water have all stoked the number of vessels available for charter,” he said.

VLCC rates on the Middle East-to-Japan route dropped to W63.50 on Thursday from W68.75 the same day last week, the lowest since Oct. 11.

Rates on the West Africa-to-China route fell to around W66.50, the lowest since Oct. 12.

Charter rates for an 80,000-deadweight-tonne Aframax tanker from Southeast Asia to East Coast Australia dropped to about W112.50 on Thursday, the lowest since Oct. 13 and equivalent to daily earnings of $9,743, against W116 a week ago.

Source: Reuters

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