North Sea Tankers Reverse Trend

Tuesday, March 13, 2001
North Sea tanker rates have reversed a three-month decline and are now making significant gains, brokers said. "Everyone's come out of the woodwork to look for tankers for dates from the 20th (of March) onwards," said a London broker. "There's a big increase in demand."

He said that the market for Aframaxes (80,000 tonners) that usually ply the North Sea trades had been helped by the fact that the million-barrel tankers that had recently been competing for North Sea cargoes had now disappeared.

London's Baltic Exchange has uprated its assessment of the benchmark route from Sullom Voe to Wilhelmshaven by a fifth so far this week to stand at W190 ($1.01 per barrel).

Owners of Aframaxes last week took advantage of Italian legislation to push up rates in the Mediterranean.

"Owners of modern Aframax tonnage trading in the Mediterranean received a long awaited boost to their fortunes, with news that Italy will insist on double-hulled tonnage being mandatory for most of its major ports," said London broker Gibsons. "This news combined with strong demand from the Black Sea pushed cross-Mediterranean rates to W230 and this upward trend is likely to continue," it added.

On the other side of the Atlantic, rates that had been pushed up by fog-related delays remained high at around W308 for Caribbean cargoes to the U.S. Gulf but showed signs of weakening.

U.S. brokers said that the backlog because of the bad weather had cleared, but not before the market had seen a high of W320 paid for one very prompt fixture.

Equiva paid W305 on March 12 for a cargo from the east coast of Mexico to the U.S. Gulf, a route that usually pays above the average Caribbean rate.

One broker said the Aframax market could be undermined by a weak market for Panamaxes (50,000 tonners).

Million-barrel tanker rates continue to climb this week, brokers said.

London's Baltic Exchange rated the cross-Mediterranean route at W152 March 5, pegged it at W174 at last week's close, and uprated it to W182 earlier this week.

West African trades continued their recent bull-run. After a 20-point climb to W177 the previous week, the benchmark route from Nigeria to Philadelphia stood at W188 on March 12.

VLCC rates from Nigeria to the U.S. Gulf have made significant gains of about 10 points so far this week to reach W110.

Rates for VLCCs from the Mideast Gulf to Singapore and the U.S. fell on March 12, but they jumped on routes to Japan. - (Reuters)

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