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Tankers’ Newbuilding Deliveries a Major Obstacle for Market’s Restoration of Balance

The single biggest stumbling block which is hindering the crude tanker market’s recovery and is bound to continue doing so, is the excess supply of ships, a trend which isn’t going away anytime soon. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “crude oil supply has been reported to have grown by approx. 2.5% reaching 40.1m bpd in 2017. However, tanker charter rates have been under pressure and have significantly been declining since Q3 of 2017 as a result of demand-supply imbalance. Lately, Brent crude oil has hit a 3-year high evidence that OPEC’s policy for supply cuts is supporting prices. Forecasts for 2018 indicate elevated oil demand that might lead to healthier tanker rates, subject to a number of other factors as well”.

According to Intermodal’s Katerina Restis, Tanker Chartering, “IEA forecasts global crude oil demand to rise by 1.3% mainly on the back of increased imports by China and India. China’s crude oil imports increased by 800,000 bpd in 2017, representing 50% of the global oil demand growth. China’s domestic oil demand continues to grow, while inland output is respectively descending. IEA projects China’s oil import dependence to rise to 80% by 2040. Additionally, India’s crude oil demand is increasing rapidly, with the country’s import dependence reaching 82% last year. India’s imports from OPEC’s countries declined during 2017, while total imports from non OPEC producers such as US, Canada, Russia and Kazakhstan significantly increased. BP projects the country’s energy demand to rise faster than any other major economy between now and 2035. India’s oil consumption averaged 4.6 million bpd in 2017 and it is projected that the country’s crude oil demand will increase 4.3% in 2018”.

The analyst added that “it is reported that OPEC will maintain output cuts, while demand continues to grow in 2018. Non-OPEC production is estimated to grow by 1.3 million bpd, with most of it sourced from the US, paving the way for significant ton-mile demand gains, as the USG to Asia represents one of the longest hauls possible. US exports have already started to increase, a trend which is probable bound to continue as OPEC sticks to current production levels. Asian refineries have already increased their oil orders from the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Concurrently, the trouble in Venezuela could discourage ton-mile growth as Europe and Asia are important consumers of Venezuelan crude and exports to these regions represent one of the longest hauls. Therefore, as US exports continue to grow, much of this benefit may be offset by declining long haul routes out of Venezuela”.

Restis also noted that “when prices trended lower in past years, inventories built up and demand for storage spiked. Respectively, such demand diminished as inventories reached peak levels and storage became rarer. Nowadays, we are in the downward phase of this cycle almost after 5 years, as inventories are being utilized. Once inventory capacities return to more manageable levels, in line with historical averages, this would allow trade flows to stabilize, which could be a sort of tailwind for the crude tanker market once it all plays out. Of course the tanker deliveries that are scheduled for this year, estimated at around 10.7 million dwt, as far as crude carriers are concerned, will most probably offset part of this expected upside”.

“A healthier crude market is expected in 2018, with analysts anticipating most of the upside to take place closer to the end of the year. As discussed, various supply-demand essentials may disturb the trade patterns and as always numerous of currently unknown risks could also present themselves during the year. Undoubtedly it looks like all of these trends will require close monitoring in the year ahead” Restis concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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