Oil shipments maintain level but rates fall
THE pattern of very large crude carrier (VLCC) and ultra large crude carrier (ULCC) utilisation from the Middle East Gulf has been remarkably similar to the previous week with 11 units fixed.
However, rates have actually softened and the level for a VLCC both to Europe and the United States Gulf is now Worldscale (WS) 42.5. Rates to Japan have been less affected and remain in the low WS 50s, but South Korea now stands at around WS 45.
Two ULCCs were fixed from the area including a 510,000-tonne cargo which obtained WS 35 to the US Gulf. With a good supply of both VLCC and ULCC tonnage remaining up to the second week of March, it is difficult to see any improvement in this market.
The Aframax market to the Far East has been sluggish with the rate to Singapore slipping to WS 95 and to Australia at WS 110.
Despite slightly more activity for million-barrel vessels in West Africa, rates were mainly unchanged, remaining in the mid-WS 70's, although one modern unit did achieve WS 82.5 to the US Atlantic Coast. VLCCs from this area continue to be in demand with three vessels fixing to South Korea at rates of between US$1.45 million and $1.48 million lump-sum. A similar vessel fixed to the Caribbean at WS 60.
In the Mediterranean the Aframax market was somewhat weaker and the cross-Med rate is now between WS 102.5 and WS 105. There was good demand for million-barrel tonnage out of the Russian Black Sea where rates rose from WS 80 to WS 87.5 for Mediterranean destinations.
Less activity was seen out of the Caribbean where the benchmark 70,000-tonne cargo is now fixing at around WS 135 for upcoast destinations. There was some interest in similar units for transatlantic voyages which were fixed at between WS 107.5 and WS 109.
Both the weather and the market have calmed down in the North Sea and the 80,000-ton SBT vessels are now fixing at WS 115 for inter-Britain-Continent movements. Less activity was seen from this area for transatlantic options although a cargo of 125,000 tonnes achieved WS 105 for the east coast of Canada.
The period market provided more interest with two reported Aframax fixtures. An Italian oil company fixed a 1980-built unit for one to two years time-charter at $14,000 to 15,000, and a major Australian trader fixed a modern double-hulled vessel at $18,250 for 12 months time-charter.
One broker said at the week's close: 'If at first you do succeed, then try to hide your amazement!'. This quip succinctly describes most markets this week where it seems that the majority of players tried hard to secure fixtures, but the failure rate was excessive.
Report supplied by London shipbroker E A Gibson