U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil continues to charter single-hull tankers for its oil, tanker brokers said on Thursday.
ExxonMobil has been in the market for a five-year time-charter since late August, brokers said, and has recently been giving serious consideration to a single-hulled very large crude carrier (VLCC) that will be nearly 20 years old by the end of the charter in 2005.
Negotiations, however, have recently reached a stalemate, brokers said.
"The fact that (ExxonMobil) is looking at single-hulled tankers is widely known, but not widely known outside shipping circles," a London tanker broker said.
"We charter both single and double-hull vessels because we believe both configurations offer safe and effective transportation for our products," said an ExxonMobil official.
ExxonMobil observes say that the composition of its fleet reflects the composition of the world fleet, 70 percent of which is single-hulled.
The major has just ordered a new double-hull VLCC from South Korea, and it points to this as a sign of its commitment to safety.
Double-hulled ships are generally considered to offer the best protection against oil spills during grounding. They have become mandatory under OPA90, the law that was introduced in the wake of the Exxon Valdez disaster when a crude spill destroyed wildlife and fish stocks in Anchorage, Alaska.
Double hulls, would probably not have prevented the loss of the tanker Erika off the coast of Brittany last December or the chemical carrier Ievoli Sun in the English Channel last month, shipping sources said.
Oil majors typically use time-charters to protect themselves against day-to-day volatility in the shipping markets.
Brokers say tanker owners responded to Exxon's tender for a five-year time charter with offers of $35,000 per day for single-hulled tankers and over $40,000 for double-hulled units.
The oil major countered with around $27,000 for single-hulls and around $30,000 for double-hulls but owners still refuse to budge.