Tanker markets cooled as Asian holidays took the steam out of recent strength, but some brokers saw it starting to simmer again last week. Holidays in Japan and Korea this week coincided with the end of most charterers' May programs, brokers said May 5. Approximately 18 VLCC fixtures of five million tons were reported in the Middle East Gulf, down from 22 of six million tons the week before, according to broker E.A. Gibsons. "However, there was sufficient momentum in the market to maintain rates at their previous levels," Gibsons said.
With modern tonnage remaining in tight supply it was reasonable to expect rates to stay at current levels or even improve over the next few weeks, it added.
Most brokers concluded that rates East were holding W95 to Japan ($10.50 per ton) and Korea, although some saw some improvement to around W97.5.
Charterers were beginning to look at June voyages, several brokers said, with the expectation that the return from holidays next week would firm conditions.
Continuing strong export levels West from Iraq kept rates to the U.S. Gulf firm with W85-87.5 (about $15 per ton) quoted for modern ships at 280,000 tons.
The same situation ex West Africa had added a couple of points to VLCC and Suezmax voyages which were being reported at W95-plus ($8.75 per ton) for the bigger ships and W122.5-125 ($1.50) for the million barrel units.
But despite some expectations that delays caused by Norwegian tug strikes at Mongstad and Sture would mean Aframax shortages in the North Sea, rates refused to respond - chugging along at W132.5 ($5.00 per ton).
However, the 80,000 ton ships saw some firming in the Mediterranean where rates lifted to about W155 ($5.00 per ton) for newer vessels. Older tonnage could be found at 10 to 20 point discounts, brokers said. — (Reuters)