Surging Suezmax tanker rates are set to soar if Iraqi exports come back on stream next week, shipping brokers said on Wednesday. Rates for the one million barrel tankers have lifted to around 100 Worldscale points on fixtures from West Africa
and the North Sea to the U.S., and on cross Mediterranean and North Sea routes, brokers said.
"Suezmax rates are going to sky rocket if Iraqi exports come back next week," one broker said.
U.S. and British envoys to the U.N. said that the Security Council would vote on a straight-forward six month renewal of the humanitarian Iraq "oil-for-food" program last Friday. Iraq has previously said it would accept a renewal of the scheme on previous terms after rejecting two week and one week extensions.
With agreement, exports could be expected to start within a few days from the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, on past experience.
"I expect to see a glut of orders on Monday (Dec. 13) with cargoes starting to appear quite quickly," another broker said. "In this overheated Suezmax market, the Mediterranean Could go crazy," he said.
Cross Mediterranean rates which had strengthened this week despite the absence of Iraqi cargoes pushed up to W95-100 ($3.30 -3.40) from around W90 ($3.10), brokers said. Recent upward pressure had been the result of a shortage of modern prompt vessels both in the Med and off West Africa.
West Africa-U.S. Suezmax rates hit year highs of around W105 ($9.20 per ton) last Tuesday, having climbed from around W72.5 ($6.35) a week before as export restrictions in Nigeria lifted and U.S. charterers sought sufficient modern ships. North Sea to USAC rates were seen hitting W105 ($7.40), brokers said, up from last done fixtures a couple of weeks ago around W70 ($5.00).
VLCC rates from West Africa to the U.S. were also rising as some charterers sought to combine stems while Suezmax rates rose. A fixture at W61.25 ($5.40) was reported up from the previous W52.5 ($4.60) benchmark.
Middle East VLCC rates were expected to stabilize and possibly rise as a result of Iraqi exports also restarting from Mina al Bakr.
A feared meltdown in Mideast VLCC rates had failed to materialize while strong Asian chartering for December underpinned the market over the last two weeks. But with most December cargoes gone there had been fears rates would Collapse if Iraq stayed
shut. - (Reuters)