The Erika syndrome, by which charterers are seeking tankers younger than 20 years of age, shifted focus to the Atlantic Aframax markets, shipping brokers said. Two weeks ago oil lifters scrambled to fix modern VLCCs for Middle East to Far East
ern destinations, lifting rates by a third, on the back of anxiety about older substandard tankers after the Erika broke up off France in December. This week 80,000 tonners in the North Sea benefited from a combination of tight availability and the rush to quality while in the Mediterranean poor weather helped a two tier market develop. Million barrel rates out of West Africa were also bouyant on demand from the U.S. But VLCC rates in the Mideast slipped back between five and ten worldscale points to W58-60 (up to $6.50 per ton) for Japan and W55 ($3.50) for Singapore as February cargoes petered out.
Aframax rates climbed 25 points over the week to W130 ($4.80) for North Sea inter-continental trips and W150 ($10.35) to the U.S. In the Mediterranean, newer 80,000-ton tankers were achieving up to W130 while older units were pegged back around W115.
Suezmaxes in the Med climbed above W105 ($3.50) while rates to the U.S. were approaching W100 ($9.15) and for China W80.