North Sea tanker markets tumbled to a one-year low by the middle of this week and have since fallen further still, brokers said.
"There was virtually no Aframax (80,000 tonner) enquiry in the North Sea," said London tanker broker Gibsons. "Consequently rates fell to average W120 ($0.64 per barrel) and by the close (of the week) had dropped further to W112.5 ($0.60 per barrel)."
"There's just no demand," said a London broker, "and the position lists are getting longer and longer and longer..."
The transatlantic trade from the North Sea also fell. Despite one promising mid-week million-barrel fixture by Ultramar at W120 ($1.10 per barrel), Exxon subsequently haggled the trade down
to W110 ($1.01 per barrel) for a Mongstad to U.S. Gulf cargo.
Brokers described the Caribbean market this week as "brisk", but rates remained stable at W182.5 ($1.30 per barrel). It was the Mediterranean market that provided the greatest volatility.
"The Mediterranean Aframax market got off to a good start with tonnage for tight positions pushing levels to W172.5 for cross-Mediterranean voyages," said Gibsons.
"But a surplus of million-barrel tonnage reversed the trend and W165 ($0.81 per barrel) once again became the norm."
Brokers said that the million-barrel market remained weak at W105 in both the Mediterranean ($0.59 per barrel) and the West African market ($1.38 per barrel).
This was a step up for the West African market, which last week hit 16-month lows, but brokers said the sector was still capped by competition from the VLCC market which is currently at rock-bottom.
Brokers said that the VLCC market from the Mideast Gulf had been virtually silent this last week, but rates had remained stable at W62 ($1.05 per barrel) to the East and W56 ($1.58 per barrel) to the West.
"The absence of Iraqi exports certainly accounted for some of the shortfall and unless there is a marked upturn in demand owners will struggle to maintain current rate levels," said Gibson's.