Gulf tanker rates may extend decline
The cost of shipping Middle East crude to Asia, the world's busiest market for supertankers, may extend its biggest two-day drop in three years as refineries release spare ships into the market.
Refineries in the northern hemisphere undergo routine repairs and reconfigure to make more gasoline during the second quarter.
That will stem demand and encourage some Asian traders to lease out vessels they don't need, Nikos Varvaropoulos, a tanker broker at Optima Shipbrokers in Athens, said in an e-mailed note yesterday.
'I do not expect the market to change for the better in the next two months,' he said.
S-Oil Corp, South Korea's third-biggest oil refiner, hired the tanker Millennium for 80 Worldscale points, according to a report yesterday from Paris-based shipbroker Barry Rogliano Salles. That's 8.6 per cent below the London-based Baltic Exchange's benchmark assessment of 87.50 points for voyages to Asia. Millennium was built in 1998 and has two layers of steel separating its cargo from the ocean to cut the risk of an oil spill.
The exchange's assessment, used to settle freight-derivative contracts, also takes into account rentals of single-hull vessels that are normally cheaper.
The exchange's assessment fell 26 per cent during the past two trading days, its sharpest two-day decline since March 2005. Worldscale points are a percentage of a nominal rate, or flat rate, for more than 320,000 specific routes. Flat rates for every voyage, quoted in US dollars a tonne, are revised annually by the Worldscale Association in London to reflect changing fuel costs, port tariffs and exchange rates. Each flat-rate assessment gives owners and oil companies a starting point for negotiating hire rates without having to calculate the value of each deal from scratch.
At 87.50 Worldscale points, owners of double-hulled very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, can earn about US$49,447 a day on a 39-day round trip from Saudi Arabia to South Korea, based on a formula by R.S. Platou, an Oslo-based shipbroker, and Bloomberg marine fuel prices. Frontline Ltd, the world's biggest VLCC operator, said on Feb 15 it needs US$31,400 a day to break even on each of its supertankers. Bookings for VLCCs sailing from the Middle East to Asia account for 47 per cent of global demand for the carriers.