Tanker Freight Rates Increased Sharply in January.
The tanker spot market increased in January from the previous month. All reported routes registered an increase in spot freight rates. The increase came on the back of lower world scale (WS) values for 2010, which pushed owners to resist the level accepted in 2009 as the lumpsum value declined, hence driving up the freight rate in WS. On an average basis, dirty spot freight rates increased 63%, with the Suezmax sector experiencing the largest growth in January. Market activity was one of the main reasons for the increase.
The VLCC sector started the month with high activity as many charterers were trying to make up for lost time due to the holidays in December. This increase continued through most of the month to decline slightly at the end as charters were holding their positions to calm down the market.
In East of Suez, VLCC spot freight rates on the long-haul Middle East to East route increased a sharp 89% in January from a month earlier. The decrease in WS value supported the rise in addition to higher imports in China and India as well as weather delays. From the Middle East to western destinations, VLCC spot freight rates for longhaul voyages registered a rise of 79% in January from the previous month. The same factors that influenced Middle East to east route affected the Middle east to West route, in addition to shifting to long haul routes as well as the weather delays in the Northern Hemisphere. VLCC spot freight rates increased 76% on the West Africa to the East route in January from the previous month on the back of the above-mentioned factors in addition to the support received from the Suezmax sector.
Similar developments were encountered in the Suezmax sectors which rose by 96% on average in January compared to a month ago, supported by the dame factors affecting the VLCC rates. In addition to tonnage availability that further supported owners" positions. From West Africa to the West, Suezmax spot freight rates rose 95% in January from the previous month. From Northwest Europe to the US, the Suezmax market was in a slightly better position than the one in West Africa with rates increasing 97% in January.
Arbitrage opportunities as well as the port closure due to bad weather supported the Suezmax sentiment. In addition, the high level of activity on the back of slightly higher production supported the rates. On an annual basis, Suezmax spot freight rates registered an increase of 74% in January.
The Aframax sector followed the same trend but with a lower increase. Aframax Caribbean spot freight rates showed an increase of 69% driven mainly by loading delays and bad weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. The only reported East of Suez route registered the second largest increase among Aframax spot freight rates with a 40% increase in January from the previous month. The high level of activity in the region supported by China fuel oil trade supported rates. In the Mediterranean, Aframax spot freight rates rose 13% on average in January as tonnage oversupply limiting gains over previous months. On an annual basis, average Aframax freight rates showed anincrease of 42% in January.
Tanker sailings from OPEC ports on average fell in January by about 0.1 mb/d, according to preliminary data. OPEC sailings on an annual basis indicated a 3% decline in January, in line with the production level. Middle East tanker loadings remained relatively steady in December.
However, arrivals of crude oil tankers in USA during January fell by 3.9% on lower imports. European arrivals declined 3.6% while those to the Far East remained relatively steady.