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Are Crude Tankers Primed for an Earnings Comeback?

A looming energy crisis could act in favor of tanker demand in the coming weeks and months, which could help lift earnings. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “in a year where both the container and the dry bulk freight sectors enjoy historical booming markets with gains exceeding even the most optimistic forecasts, the crude carrier segment has suffered a destructive year with average T/C earnings for the three crude sectors hovering well below the OPEX levels. Indeed, according to Baltic Exchange Time Charter Equivalent, the VLCC market has set the negative tone with its T/C earnings averaging $-7,938 per day this year so far, followed by the Suezmax front with an average equivalent of $ 896 per day and the Aframax sector whose T/C earnings averaging $2,643 per day. At the same time, we saw steel plate prices soaring, resulting in a constant increase in newbuilding prices with the current values being assessed at levels we last saw back in 2010. Lastly, a significant improvement materialized in the demolition realm, with breakers offers across the main Indian-subcontinent demolition nations reaching the $600/ldt mark and even have transcended it in a plethora of demolition deals. While a common-sense approach would point to a surge in vintage tanker disposal levels and a slide on the volume for the respective vessels, divergent decisions have been adopted by owners between the first half and the second half of 2021”.

Source: Intermodal

According to Mr. Yiannis Parganas, Research Analyst with Intermodal, “starting with the newbuilding market, the first half of 2021 was a very active contracting period for the crude carrier sectors. According to our preliminary data, the crude carrier contracting volume in dwt terms for the January-June period is estimated at around 13,15 million dwt. This is more than double the same period of 2020 contracting volume which is estimated at around 6,7 million dwt. However, since then, owners’ interest in crude tankers has substantially decreased with the number of newbuilding deals having plummeted. More precisely, only one order on behalf of Samos Steamship came to light during the 2H of this year so far, consisted of two Aframax 115,000dwt units. It seems that the performance of the tanker market coupled with the skyrocketing newbuilding prices has stalled owners’ appetite for the time being”.

Parganas added that “as far as the demolition market is concerned, we are witnessing an increase in the number of owners who are willing to dispose of their vintage crude carrier units. More specifically, during the third quarter of the year, the total number in dwt terms is estimated at around 3.8 million outpacing the previous two quarters where the volume of the demolition activity stood at around 3,24 million. Solely for the purpose of comparison, 2020 total demolition crude carrier activity is estimated at around 2.17 million dwt and 2019 volume at around 2,14 million. Taking into consideration the poor performance of the freight market coupled with the towering scrap levels and the upcoming environmental regulations, the rise of 2021 demolition volume should come as no surprise, with many shipping participants believing that the tonnage availability should be higher”.

“There is an overall optimism that a positive trend will start during the last quarter of the year for the crude carrier market based on several macro-economic factors which will push demand for oil to higher levels. If this improvement will translate into a stronger freight market performance before the end of 2021, we may see a number of tanker owners moving to the sidelines as far as the demolition market is concerned while we do not expect any substantial rise in the contracting activity in the short-term”, Intermodal’s analyst concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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