Owner gives optimistic forecast on small gas carrier fleet growth
The global fleet of small-sized gas carriers is set to shrink by more than 12% over the next two years, according to Stealthgas president and chief executive Harry Vafias, writes Martyn Wingrove.
The number of 3,000-10,000 cu m liquefied petroleum gas carriers will fall by 5% in 2011 and a further 7.5% in 2012, after ?minimal fleet growth? this year, he said.
?The negative fleet growth in 2011 comes at the time when several large gas projects are due to come onstream, giving us a positive outlook for our core sector. Based on expectations that the supply of LPG product will increase, we continue to believe that the supply and demand balance is very encouraging,? Mr Vafias said in a presentation last week.
However, Thomas Zvikk an analyst with Norway"s Lorentzen & Stemoco presented a differing outlook.
?The fleet is not declining at the moment, but certainly there will be a lot of older vessels in this segment that will need to be scrapped as they turn 30 years old. Around 2% of the fleet is over 30 years old and in the next couple of years we will have another 10%-12% of the fleet turning 30.?
He forecast 55,000 cu m of gas carrier capacity (3,000-10,000 cu m) will be scrapped this year, but 35 vessels, totalling 220,000 cu m, would be added to the global fleet.
In 2011, he said, another 65,000 cu m would be scrapped but 25 ships (150,000 cu m) would be added.
By 2012, scrapping was forecast to reach 80,000 cu m but just 10 ships (70,000 cu m) would enter service. Over the next three years, net fleet capacity would rise by 170,000 cu m, based on this analysis.
By comparison, Clarksons analysts said 135 gas carriers up to 10,000 cu m were on the global orderbook against an existing fleet of 840 ships that total 2.82m cu m.
In the spot market, Fearnleys said 10,000 cu m gas carriers could earn $480,000 per month, or $15,800 per dayin the month of March. In comparison, rates for very large gas carriers, shipping Middle East LPG to east Asia were $310,000 per month, down $10,000 from the middle of March due to the lack of inquiry from gas traders. The freight rate on the Baltic Exchange benchmark LPG route ? shipping 44,000 tonnes of Saudi Arabian LPG to Japan ? was $28.31 per tonne yesterday, down from this year"s peak of $28.70 last week.
?It is very quiet and nothing much is going on. AP Moller and BW Gas have ships open in Middle East and people are waiting for Saudi Arabia"s price announcement. Next week we will probably see some action, so there is a chance that rates will come up a few dollars,? a Lorentzen & Stemoco broker said.
?Up to the end of April there will be 30 ships available, which is actually not too bad from an owner"s point of view.?