Middle East Gulf rates hold firm
COMPARED to other sectors of the market, activity in the Middle East Gulf for VLCC/ULCCs has been somewhat pedestrian, with only 17 reported fixtures. Fortunately, this proved sufficient to generally maintain rates at their previous levels.
A 280,000 tonner fixed to Europe obtained WS 45 and a 250,000 tonner for Japan achieved WS 52.5.
The most interesting fixture was that of a 270,000 tonner to the US Gulf which has COFR in place, and that obtained a premium rate of WS 62.
Aframax rates have improved greatly and a 75,000 tonner was fixed at WS 145 to Singapore, with tonnage in short supply rates in this sector expected to remain firm.
The continuing pressure to stockpile prior to December 28 has helped to maintain a firm market for million-barrel tonnage from West Africa, where rates stand at around WS 92.5 for the US Gulf. So far, VLCC activity in this area has been limited.
Rates for Aframax vessels in the Mediterranean have levelled off at around WS 112.5 for cross-Mediterranean voyages.
Million-barrel tonnage has fared considerably better, largely due to a substantial number of stems appearing from the Russian Black Sea. Rates from this area to the Mediterranean and UK-Continent range between middle WS 70s for older tonnage and WS 87.5 for modern vessels.
This week's star performer has undoubtedly been the Caribbean market, where heavy demand has pushed rates to this year's high of WS 175 for a 76,000-tonne cargo to the USAC, and an 80,000 tonner to North West Europe fixed at WS 138.
The North Sea market for Aframax vessels has been fairly stable and rates have settled to around WS 130 for cross-North Sea movements.
Largely due to the general pressure for one-million barrel ships in the Atlantic, a 136,000-tonne parcel was fixed from West Coast Norway to the USCAC at WS 100.
Owners of LR 2 clean tonnage in the Middle East for November have experienced a continuing firmness to their market despite holidays in Japan and Singapore this week.
In contrast, the market in the Middle East for MR clean tonnage has seemed patchy with prompt tonnage struggling to find suitable employment.
In the West, the Caribbean has at last seen some life and freights for the MR clean liftings have continued at approximately WS 230.
In the Mediterranean, freights have generally slipped due to a lack of enquiry and on the Continent most owners have finally secured employment.
With holidays affecting the market in the Far East, it was pleasing to note that a handful of short-haul fixtures concluded at steady levels in this area.
There was also sufficient enquiry for LR-size movements from the Middle East to Singapore/Japan, to keep levels firm.
and over the coming weekend there are at least four vessels on 'subjects', basis 55,000-metric tonnes cargo at around WS 190.
The only downside experienced has occurred for prompt MR movements out of the Middle East as a result of the build-up of units and, accordingly, charterers were able to fix 30,000 metric tonnes to India at WS 205.
In the Mediterranean, continued inactivity has frustrated owners who have had to yield to lower freight levels. Although the vessels suitable for the naphtha or minimum 30,000 metric tonnes gasoil stems have been less affected, the 25,000-metric tonnes gasoil parcels have had the opportunity of concluding around the WS 170 level - a drop of nearly 20 Worldscale points.