Owners of Aframax tankers (70-80,000 tonners) have taken advantage of weather and Italian lawmakers to push rates up in both the Caribbean and Mediterranean markets. "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."
On the other side of the Atlantic, last week's weather delays were still causing a backlog, allowing owners to force rates up from W300 on Monday to W310 on Friday, as illustrated by Fina's fixture of the Nordlight from Covenas to the U.S. Gulf.
U.S brokers said that the backlog had cleared, but not before the market had seen a high of W320 paid for one very prompt fixture.
One broker said the market could be undermined by a weak market for Panamaxes (50,000 tonners). "Panamaxes really fell off this week," he said. "So they (brokers) found a big Panamax and got charterers permission to load a small cargo: 440,000 barrels, when they're usually doing 500,000 plus (on an Aframax)." Oslo brokers said Panamaxes had traded as low as W150 for fuel oil cargoes. Million-barrel tankers were commanding W180 for similar voyages.
Million-barrel tankers were mirroring the advances of their smaller cousins this week. London's Baltic exchange rated
the cross-Mediterranean route at W152 on Monday, but closed on Friday with it pegged at W174. Gibsons estimated the med market at W167.5, the rate at which Petrogal managed to fix the Iran Sanadaj from Sidi Kerir. West African trades continued their recent bull-run, the benchmark route from Nigeria to Philadelphia ending the week at W177, a 20 point gain on last Friday's levels.
Routes to Europe also traded high. Gibsons reported that an unspecified fixture to the Mediterranean had been done as high as W187.5. Rates for VLCCs from the Mideast Gulf changed little during the week, and now stand at W83 westbound and W94 eastbound. Million-barrel strength in West African trades knocked on to VLCCS there, and they shifted up to W101 from W92 last Friday. - (Reuters)