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Hie Outlook for Oil Shipping to 2000

Rising oil production, increased use ofFPSOs drive shuttle tanker demand A combination of new discoveries, cost reductions, improved technology and fast track development solutions such as Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) have extended the commercial life of the North Sea as an oil producing area.

The North Sea, consequently, continues to defy expectations with spectacular growth in oil production, and predictions forecast a boom to the end of the decade. In its latest report, The North Sea Tanker Market: The Outlook for Oil Shipping to 2000, Drewry Shipping Consultants looks at how higher North Sea output has affected oil shipping, and examines the implications for the tanker market.

Drewry expects that shuttle tankers will be carrying 64 percent more North Sea crude in 2000 as compared with 1995 levels, which equates to an extra 1.5 million barrels per day.

The growing demand for shuttle tankers from offshore loading oilfields in the North Sea is a result not only of the rising level of oil production, but also of the increasing use of FPSO developments, the growing significance of heavy crudes in the North Sea and the close proximity of much of Europe's refining capacity.

The main growth areas for offshore loading will be in the Norwegian Sea, West of Shetland, and the central area of the North Sea. The increased demand in these areas will more than make up for the decline in demand for shuttle tankers from the older, more established fields. To accommodate the projected increases in demand, the North Sea shuttle tanker fleet will need to expand. Effect On Conventional Tanker Trading Patterns All sectors in the North Sea tanker market have registered spectacular growth in the 1990s in terms of the volume of crude cargo traded.

However, the switching of employment of some VLCCs, from long-haul trades out of the Arabian Gulf, to work in the North Sea, has meant that growth in North Sea oil production has not always been translated into significantly higher freight rates for the North Sea's traditional aframax and suezmax tankers.

The rising level of oil production has resulted in a commensurate growth in tanker demand in Northwest Europe that has had a knock on the effect of tanker trading patterns worldwide. The previously highly international tanker market is breaking down into a series of regional markets. In particular, North Sea output, coupled with other non-OPEC production advances, has helped limit the long expected increase in the reliance on OPEC oil.

Short and medium haul supplies from the North Sea (along with West Africa and Latin America) have increasingly displaced long haul cargoes from the Arabian Gulf in the European and American markets. Crude cargoes from the Arabian Gulf increasingly go east to Southeast Asia and the Far East, rather than worldwide. This cuts import demand for VLCCs, while smaller tankers more suited to regional trades prosper. With oil being transported shorter distances, rising world oil production and demand is not being translated into increased tanker demand in ton-mile terms. North Sea Freight Volumes Up According to Drewry, the volume of dirty spot chartering activity in Northwest Europe has grown substantially in the last four years, consistently outperforming the rate of growth in total world chartering activity. From just under 10 percent of total world chartering activity in 1992, dirty spot chartering in Northwest Europe accounted for more than 15 percent in 1995.

The increase in the volume of crude traded on the spot market out of Northwest Europe has not, however, been reflected by a comparable rise in freight rates. The poor level of freight rates achieved is a reflection of the continuing overcapacity in the world tanker fleet.

North Sea's International Significance This latest Drewry report looks at North Sea in context of the world oil market, noting that the area's dominance is disproportionate to its geographical size. The cutting edge offshore technologies that make the North Sea such a dynamic oil province are now being put into practice worldwide.

The structure of the oil industry in the North Sea is studied with an in-depth look at the production and transport infrastructure, including oil production forecasts for each oil field to 2000.

An analysis of the trading patterns in the North Sea tanker market, based on a comprehensive database of tanker movements, is included in the report. Fixture activity, load and discharge ports, trade routes, vessel characteristics and the owners and charterers operating in the North Sea are all considered.

The North Sea Tanker Market: The Outlook for Oil Shipping to 2000, is published by Drewry Shipping Consultants. Contact Drewry at: 11 Heron Quay, London E14 4JF; tel: +44 171- 5380191; fax: +44 171-9879396.

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