Sideways movement for freight rates of tankers across the board suggest new analysis
Friday, 13 April 2012 | 00:00
With the winter over and some of the ice-class tankers having reaped the benefits, attention now turns towards the July 1st deadline on the full halt of EU oil imports from Iran and its impact on the tanker market. in its latest analysis, BIMCO said that going into April and May, freight rates will move more or less sideways. "For VLCCs, that translates into USD 20,000-30,000 per day. Suezmaxes are expected to mirror the fairly positive VLCC freight rates at USD 15,000-25,000 per day. Aframax vessels are under pressure from the high Brent oil price and expected to move between USD 5,000-15,000 per day" BIMCO said.
It carried on by mentioning that “short term factors that may affect our rate forecast on the upside or downside are: changing trading patterns for AG-crude oil resulting from the situation with Iran, disruptions to traffic in bottleneck areas and Atlantic-clean products trading as US refineries close down and demand from EU can change. On the macro level, factors such as oil price development and the progress of economic recovery in major oil consuming nations can affect rates. Handysize and MR clean rates could be supported by stronger demand from the US and EU, to make freight rates move around USD 5,000- 15,000 per day, with Handysize making more than MR. Earnings on benchmark routes for LR1 and LR2 from AG going East holds limited potential for massive rate moves, and we expect freight rates to stay flat around between USD 500-8,000 per day” said BIMCO’s report.
In terms of supply, Chief Shipping analyst Peter Sand said that “the overall tanker fleet is forecast to grow by 5.9%, with most focus on the crude tanker segments where growth will be significant. Meanwhile, the product tanker fleet is about to receive less than 4 million DWT in net growth, which is the lowest amount of tonnage since 2003”. In terms of the crude market, “while 14 new VLCCs have been delivered during the first quarter of 2012, another 11 new Suezmax Crude Carriers and 12 new Aframax Crude Carriers have entered the fleet too. In the meantime, 4 VLCC (of which two single skins), 7 Suezmax and just one Aframax have been sold for recycling. This means that the total crude tanker fleet grew by 1.0%, as 7.4 million DWT of new tonnage was delivered and 3.0 million DWT was removed. As the deliveries came in as expected, the recycling of overage tonnage can be seen as the positive event limiting first quarter fleet growth” said the report.
BIMCO has an unchanged forecast for tanker fleet growth for the entire year. The product tanker fleet is expected to see low growth of 3.4% and the crude tanker fleet is expected to see a growth level similar to that of 2011 at 6.4%. The pace at which new orders have been placed is one of the positive stories in 2012 so far. While the amount of new product tanker tonnage orders was at par with deliveries, the new contracts signed in the crude tanker segment were as low as 1.5 million DWT (4 VLCC, 1 Suezmax and 1 Aframax).
Demand-wise, the research report notes that “the positive demand picture that was firming freight rates on benchmark routes in all crude tanker segments towards the end of 2011 and the first two months of 2012 is still hanging around. Almost the same – that is, as Aframax tanker have seen earnings on the benchmark route in the North Sea drop during February to touch the ground before taking rates to currently USD 10,500 per day. In the larger VLCC segment rates have averaged year-to-date at USD 18,000 per day on TD3 (AG/East) as compared to USD 8,000 per day on this route last year. It is clear that the situation in the Persian Gulf has motivated some owners to keep their vessels away from the area, leaving the tonnage list shorter than during most of 2011, bringing supply closer to demand and rates moving upwards. Current average VLCC rates from Middle East to Far East float around USD 35,000 per day, with some spot fixtures reported as high as USD 48,800 per day. The US and EU sanctions on Iran are beginning to bite, as in many ways, dealing with the nation has been made “impossible”. Oil is still being exported from Iran – mostly bound for Eastern destinations – but the fact that the EU is set to cut oil imports from mid-2012 is going to affect crude oil tanker trade patterns. Right now, Saudi Arabia has stepped in as a swing supplier to the EU, but whether they are able to fully compensate for Iran exports remains to be seen. Another important source of oil supply is Libya, as they strive to get back to pre-civil-war export levels. Currently, Libya is exporting 1 million barrels per day, with the potential to push this 50% higher. That would certainly ease the pressure on EU oil importers, as they seek new providers of oil. From a refinery point of view, a substitution from one type of Middle East crude oil to another is the most effective step, as a shift to the much sweeter Libyan oil can create some operational challenges. Rising oil prices remain a risk factor to the tanker industry, as they may motivate importers to reduce oil imports. Current oil prices are at USD 120 for Brent oil and USD 101 for WTI” concluded BIMCO.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide