Future of tanker market hinges on maintenance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 July, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 July, 1996, 12:00am

When does age begin to have a pernicious effect on the ability of the vessel to perform its task safely and economically? A similar question has been asked of the airline industry after last week's tragic explosion in the United States.

Is a 25-year-old aircraft designed for an 18-year lifespan still airworthy? It is the level and frequency of maintenance that matters - the older it is, the more it needs. How similar to shipping's fortunes, to learn that growing competition between airlines is driving many to cut costs.

The key to the tanker market's future will be the way that major charterers decide to act regarding their own vessel's special surveys in one to two year's time, EA Gibson Shipbrokers say.

'If they take the route of increased lifespan, they will have a clear conscience in continuing to charter vessels of a similar age,' the broker said. 'But if they, on the other hand decry this option, they can hardly use vessels of similar age to those they have just forsaken.' Shipowners may well wish to place orders for new VLCCs to take advantage of the existing high freight levels which will re-start the cyclical 'boom-and-bust' scenario. This week's VLCC market from the Middle East Gulf maintained a similar level of activity to that of last week, with 33 fixtures amounting to 8.5 million tonnes.