IN spite of reduced activity in the Middle East Gulf last week, rates have recovered to the Worldscale (WS) 42.5 level for Western destinations as the shortage of acceptable vessels has reduced charterers negotiating power. There were 10 VLCCs and ULCCs (very large crude carriers and ultra-large crude carriers) fixed from the area during the week totalling 2.5 million tonnes, of which there was an equal split between Eastern and Western destinations with the rate for a ULCCc to the Red Sea being WS 37.5, and VLCCs to South Korea and Japan at around WS 40. Of the 11 prompt vessels available to the end of August, only two could anticipate fixing to major charters, so rates should hold firm, while 80 vessels of 23 million tonnes are available for September. There is little change in the levels for the 80,000 to 90,000 tonne size, where rates to the East continue to register around WS 90, and a million-barrel tanker was fixed to the Mediterranean at WS 60. Rates in the Caribbean for the 70,000 to 80,000 tonne crude carrier have gone in the charterers' favour, with the level of WS 92.5 is now established for the 75,000 tonne-size movement from the Caribbean to US Gulf, and WS 97.5 from east coast Mexico forthe same destination. There were several transatlantic fixtures concluded from east coast Mexico to the Mediterranean at WS 72.5 for a 70,000 tonner and WS 45 for a 130,000 tonner. Rates out of the North Sea struggle to maintain earlier levels, where inter-UK-Continent voyages are closing at WS 87.5 for the 80,000 tonner, while a 70,000 tonner obtained WS 90 for the Mediterranean, and a million-barrel size ship accepted WS 60 fora voyage to US Atlantic coast. The products market has generally been quiet leading up to the UK and US holidays although there have been one or two notable exceptions to this lethargy, with firm enquiry for Middle East trade outstripping tonnage availability, and leading to a substantial increase in freight levels. Early in the week, the quiet trade in the Middle East allowed charterers to drop rates by five to 10 points, but a healthy increase of enquiry from Japan, Korea and western traders, allowed owners to re-establish themselves to where the rate for a 55,000-tonner to Japan stands at WS 155, and this is expected to continue as potential enquiry is likely to outstrip availability of large vessels. Charterers were forced to concede WS 218 for a 30,000 tonne movement to India, and again, the lack of suitable tonnage should see the rates maintained. With another poor week in the Mediterranean, rates again dropped, with vessels suitable for naphtha also suffering. A 26,000 metric tonne cross-Mediterranean or UK-Continent movement stands at WS 155. The fuel oil market also slipped, with owners just managing to hold existing levels where rates stand at WS 120 for a 50,000 tonne fuel-oil movement from the Mediterranean to the US. Report supplied by London ship broker E.A. Gibson.