Long-range clean tanker rates rallied on Wednesday as buoyant demand for cargoes reduced vessel availability with expectations of further gains.
Long Range 1 tankers, carrying 55,000 tonne loads from the Middle East Gulf (MEG) to Japan, reached W111.64 in the Worldscale measure, or $9,721 a day when translated into average earnings, its highest since mid December last year. That compared with W109.28 or $8,920 a day on Tuesday and W102.86 or $6,779 a day last Wednesday.
Larger Long Range 2 or LR2, 75,000 tonne shipments on the Middle East Gulf to Japan route were at W97.50 or $13,310 a day, its highest since early April. That compared with W96.83 or $13,016 a day on Tuesday and W87.90 or $9,113 a day last Wednesday.
"In spite of several public holidays in the East during the last two weeks, we have seen a firm market on both LR1 and LR2," broker Fearnleys said on Wednesday.
"Currently the LR2 position list in the MEG is looking tight ... we are assessing the market at W97.5 MEG-Japan with a firming tendency."
Omar Nokta, senior analyst with Global Hunter Securities, said on Wednesday there had been 10 bookings transported on LR2 tankers so far this week versus a weekly average of 9 bookings.
"The LR market has been more active in recent days compared to what has been typical so far this year," Nokta said.
Rates for medium-range (MR) tankers for 37,000 tonne cargoes on the TC2 route from Rotterdam to New York were at W98.96, or $2,951 a day.
That compared with W98.54 or $2,845 a day on Tuesday and W111.46 or $5,720 last Wednesday.
In January, earnings reached their highest level since early August last year.
"With lower activity and ample tonnage available on the Continent, MRs ... have seen rates drop 15 (Worldscale) points since last week," Fearnleys said.
Rates for MR tankers on the U.S. Gulf (USG) to Europe route were negative at W70.36 or -$3,049 a day. That compared with W71.07 or -$2,987 a day on Tuesday and W80.00 or -$733 day last Wednesday.
In November last year, rates on that route rose to their highest level since earnings were published in June 2012, Baltic Exchange data showed. Buoyant demand for diesel products has boosted tanker activity on the U.S. Gulf to Europe route, known as the backhaul journey as vessels usually travel to the U.S. East Coast first and then pick up return cargoes.
Average earnings per day are calculated after a vessel covers its voyage costs such as bunker fuel and port fees.
(Reporting by Jonathan Saul, editing by David Evans)