ALLIED: Current Market Trends a Hurdle to Tanker Earnings Recovery

The recovery for the tanker market in terms of earnings could prove to be a long and arduous journey given the current trends and geopolitical shifts being seen, ALLIED Shipping Research said in its latest update.

According to the consultancy, 2018 is all but what can be described as a stellar year for the tanker market, given the turmoil it has faced during these past five months and the repeated inability to show an ability to sustain itself on a stable track.

During the latter part of the previous month, TCE earnings of VLCCs eased back to – USD 5,449 per day, a figure not repeated since the last trough point back in 2014.

For the year so far, their TCE levels have stayed mostly in the negative territory, while the average figure for the past five months is closing in on – USD 2,100 per day. This is a level well below the one seen last year, which was in the region of USD 10,200 per day, let alone when compared to the respective figures of 2016 and 2015.

However, despite this softening in earnings, most market participants seem to be showing a fairly perplexing and multi facet sentiment for the time being, ALLIED said.

Following the current downward spiral in freight rates, a record level of scrapping activity has been recorded in the year so far. As explained, this can be considered to be attuned with the low earnings witnessed, but in part it has also been greatly nourished also by the strong fundamentals noted in the ship recycling market at the same time. Specifically, scrapping activity during this period has already exceeded that noted during the whole of the past year.

On the other side of the balance and at the same time, there has been a relatively enhanced level of newbuilding activity. This has come to add a level of considerable perplexity to the whole picture, given the supply/demand imbalance and the difficulties being faced. One would have hoped that new ordering would have scaled back, leaving room for some re-balancing to take place in the years forward. Against this logic, new ordering activity noted up until the end of April had already reached levels which were close to half of the total volume noted last year, ALLIED said.

As informed, this leaves us with an orderbook to total overage fleet (vessels over 20 years of age) ratio in the region of 680%, a very high ratio that can easily turn out to be overwhelming over the next couple of years, given the bearish indication taken on the demand side of the crude oil trade. However, during this most recent ship recycling drive for VLs, a fair number of vessels have been retired at ages of well below 20 years.

“For the time being, the most recent upward track noted in the price of crude oil can be seen as a possible glimpse of hope for the market, given the potential brought by the increased price arbitrage between markets and potential for contango trades,” ALLIED noted.

“However, given that this most recent price hike has not been as a result of any demand shifts but rather shifts and fears of potential disruptions in supply, we could well see this turn out to be less than favorable for crude oil carriers,” the consultancy added.

“One would think that the overall approach being taken by most investors is that the overall long-term prospects look better, and it may well be that on this basis this most recent investment drive may inevitably find fertile ground,” ALLIED concluded.

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