Weak but Steady Growth in Oil & Gas Tanker Fleet

Monday, September 21, 2009

The world fleet of oil, chemical and gas tankers is predicted to continue to grow over the next five years, although at a much more sluggish rate than the previous five years, according to a Shipbuilding Market Report issued this month by Lloyd’s Register - Fairplay (LR Fairplay).

The oil tanker fleet, which currently stands at 7,516 ships, is expected to grow by 1.9 percent per year over the next five years in terms of the number of ships. Deadweight ton (dwt) capacity will rise by 5.7 percent annually over the same period, reflecting a movement toward larger ships. New shipbuilding orders for oil tankers will amount to 76 million dwt through the end of 2013, a 60 percent decrease from the shipbuilding binge of the last five years.

“The volume of seaborne oil is set to grow next year, although not at the same pace as fleet capacity,” said Niklas Bengtsson, project manager and senior consultant for LR Fairplay. “The record number of shipbuilding orders in 2006 means that a large number of ships are being delivered to owners this year. The gap between supply and demand will therefore continue to grow, which is likely to generate an increasing fleet of idle vessels.”

The chronic overcapacity in tanker tonnage will accelerate the scrapping of older ships. Removals of oil tankers through year-end 2013 will amount to 50 million dwt, which is up by 10 percent compared to the previous five years. While relatively few new orders are being placed for tanker tonnage, the LR Fairplay report predicts new orders to amount to 76 million dwt over the next five years – a 60 percent decrease from the last five years.

The prospect for chemical tankers is somewhat rosier, according to the LR Fairplay study. The current fleet of 4,619 ships will grow by 8 percent annually over the next five years.

The growth curve for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector will also flatten. The LPG fleet currently stands at 1,166 ships with a total capacity of 18.7 million cubic meters (m³). The fleet grew by 13 percent last year, but the rate will slow to 4.6 percent this year. In 2010 and 2011, the rate will fall to 1.6 percent and 0.9 percent respectively. New tonnage deliveries and expected delays in LPG production will result in a rise in recycling of older ships and use of idle ships for floating storage.

The relatively small fleet of 321 specialized liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers faces grim prospects with the current utilization rates of 60-65 percent falling even further as increasing numbers of new ships are delivered ahead of the projects they were intended for. The oversupply is likely to bottom out next year as the delayed liquefaction projects come on stream, and the fleet will grow by an average of 3.8 percent annually through 2011. Ordering for the 2009-2013 period is forecast at 174 new LNG carriers, 10 percent lower than the last five years.

The LR Fairplay report notes that South Korea continues to dominate the world tanker production market with 51 percent of the tonnage on order. China comes in a distant second with 25 percent, and Japan is in third place with 16 percent. If measured in the number of ships, however, South Korea’s market share is just 35 percent, with China at 28 percent.

Shipbuilding Market Forecasts are published monthly by LR Fairplay Research. Each report examines a specific sector of the world shipping market, providing a detailed five-year shipbuilding forecast, including new orders, deliveries and demolitions, with a comprehensive presentation of graphs and tables.

(www.lrfairplay.com)

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