BIMCO: Strong Tanker Demand to Resume

Demand for crude oil and oil product tankers is currently strong and both segments are enjoying an extended winter season with high earnings, according to BIMCO.

Spot market earnings in January for VLCC and Suezmax reached USD 70,000 and USD 65,000 per day at the peak respectively.

For the product tankers, Handysizes peaked at USD 35,000 per day in Q4 before heading south as the other product tanker segments did in January, only to rebound in the second half of February.

In the product tanker market, freight rates on the spot market shot up in October and have managed to stay high since then. They have also enjoyed increased demand from the drop in oil prices as more arbitrage opportunities developed in combination with a strong season uptick.

“It seems confirmed that crude oil tankers are now responding to the improved trading environment by sailing at higher speed,”says BIMCO, adding that slow steaming is important to ensure that product tankers do not depress freight rates.

BIMCO believes that the “normal” priced T/C market is an indicator that the significant oversupply seen in recent years has somewhat eased

“A lot of talk about the steep contango in oil prices (where the forward price is higher than spot price) has circulated during the winter on whether or not it could translate into a widespread employment of large crude oil tankers to floating storage. Such a development could boost demand and send freight rates higher. So far, we have not seen much pointing in this direction, as owners as well as speculators who could benefit from this price spread have been reluctant to engage. Floating storage has appeared only to a limited extent,” the organization went on to say.

Twelve new VLCC orders, six Suezmax orders and four Aframaxes have been placed so far in 2015. This has lifted the crude oil tanker order book by 4.5%. Orders for VLCC have been shared among the three top builders, whereas the orders for Suezmax and Aframax have all been placed in China. China remains the builder that offers the lowest prices on newbuildings.

The VLCC fleet grew last year by 2.3% and is on course for 3.1% in 2015, taking an unchanged level of demolition into account.

BIMCO assesses the overall product tanker fleet to grow by 5.0% in 2015, the fastest pace since 2010. This will result in the third consecutive year with a rise in product tanker fleet growth since it bottomed out in 2012 at 2.0%.

For March/May, BIMCO expects earnings for the VLCCs at USD 30,000-50,000 per day, for the Suezmax crude oil tankers at around USD 30,000-55,000 per day and for Aframaxes earnings are expected in the region of USD 20,000-40,000 per day.

In the product tanker segment, BIMCO expects earnings on the benchmark routes from the Arabian Gulf to Japan for LR2s to stay around USD 15,000-25,000 per day. LR1 ships are holding on to the stronger market, and BIMCO expects earnings around USD 15,000-25,000 per day.

MR average rates are seen somewhat down to USD 12,000-24,000 per day, with Handysize average rates equally strong in the interval of USD 15,000-25,000 per day.