EVEN fewer very large crude carriers (VLCCs) and ultra-large crude carriers (ULCCs) were fixed last week than in the previous week. The last fixture reported was that of a 390,000-tonner, which had been waiting for suitable employment since the middle of January. It has now accepted Charterers' first counter at WorldScale 35 to secure employment. The market for two-million barrel units has also declined, with the most recent fixture being of a newbuilding on its maiden voyage accepting a rate of WS 45 for European discharge. Throughout the whole week, only 13 of these larger units were fixed, totalling slightly over 3.3 million tonnes, and with nearly 60 vessels totalling in excess of 17 million tonnes available for the balance of the month, the results of next week's meeting could have a disastrous impact on current levels. Rates for the smaller units have remained firmer and the last million-barrel ship fixed to the Far East was reported at slightly under WS 80. Aframax tonnage is continuing to find employment at slightly below WS 100 for Far East discharge. West Africa experienced one of the most volatile weeks for some time. At the beginning of the week, for example, one American major found it necessary to pay as much as WS 80 for a newbuilding that fully complied with the new United States Coastguard response plans, whereas a little later another American oil company fixed a similar older unit at some 12.5 points less. As the week has progressed, both quoted and off-market inquiry has increased and the market has now climbed back to around WS 80 per one-million barrel ships being fixed to the US Gulf. This week has once again contained a fixture of a VLCC loading in West Africa for discharge in India and the reported level for this was a lump sum of (about US$650,000, a substantial improvement on similar fixtures done in the previous two or three weeks. New inquiry in the Mediterranean has been more difficult to find this week and, as a result, rates for Aframax tonnage have slipped some five to 10 WS points. Current levels for CBT tonnage stand at between WS 100 and WS 105, depending upon the discharge ports involved, and SBT tonnage still commands a premium of some 10 to 15 points over their elder sisters. The million-barrel market has seen very little change, the latest fixtures being reported here at around WS 72.5 for discharge in northwest Europe and some five to 7.5 points more for discharge in the Mediterranean. Only one VLCC was reported fixed out of the Mediterranean and this was for a part cargo of one million barrels for discharge in the French Mediterranean at WS 80. Demand for crude carriers in the Caribbean has been on a higher plane this week and accordingly marginal improvements in rate levels have been witnessed. The current level today for a 77,000 tonner, loading in the Caribbean for discharge in the US Gulf, stands at WS 105, a 10-point premium over rates ruling last week. Report supplied by London shipbroker E.A. Gibson.