North Sea Tanker Market Leads Boom

Thursday, July 12, 2001
Tanker markets around the world soared this week, led by the North Sea market where rates swelled by nearly a third as supply dried up for end-month loading dates.

Brokers said Vitol paid W160 ($0.85 per barrel) for the 80,000 tonner Moscow River loading from Teeside on July 26, compared to W125 at the start of the week and W95 a month ago.

"There's been pressure for the end of month positions, which we'd kind of anticipated," said a London broker. "A few ships have moved out of the area tipping the supply-demand balance in favour of ship owners."

Most of the smaller tankers were heading to northern Europe, but the larger sizes started to see some transatlantic activity this week. A raft of transatlantic fixtures pushed million-barrel rates past the W110 mark ($1.13 per barrel) and VLCC rates to W55 for U.S.Gulf discharge.

This week's rate explosion was sparked in the million-barrel market by news that Iraq had resumed crude exports.

The Mediterranean market, which is highly dependent on Iraqi cargoes, clawed back some of its recent losses to pass the W100 ($0.56 per barrel) mark and the West African market followed close behind.

Brokers said on Thursday it had punched through the W110 ceiling ($1.45 per barrel) for million-barrel transatlantic voyages, compared to W70 at the start of the month.

VLCC gains were less dramatic, but nevertheless the mood was positive. "They're all moving on up," said a London broker. "The VLCCs are inching forward."

He pointed to a westbound fixture by Chevron at W50 ($1.41 per barrel) as a sign of things to come. "It's a bit of a landmark," he said. Eastbound fixtures were being concluded at much the same rate for Japan discharge, equating to $0.85 per barrel.

Shorter haul destinations, such as Taiwan and Jamnagar were being done at W52.5, equating to about $0.50 per barrel.

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