Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Iran Adds Three Supertankers for Storage, Matching Peak of 2008


By Alaric Nightingale

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Iran, OPEC’s second-biggest oil producer, added three supertankers to its fleet of vessels storing crude, matching a similar program in 2008 that helped freight rates to triple, ship tracking data show.

At least 15 such vessels are idling in the Persian Gulf, Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Suez, according to data from the ships collected by AISLive Ltd. The tankers can store a combined 30 million barrels of oil, more than a week of national output.

Two years ago, Iran used as many as 15 tankers for storage, constricting vessel supply and helping to more than triple freight rates in less than three months.

Iran is likely storing oil because of weakening demand as refineries across Asia, accounting for almost two-thirds of global demand for supertankers, carry out maintenance. National Iranian Tanker Co., which operates the supertankers, also has a laden suezmax tanker idling off Iran, ship-tracking data show. A suezmax can hold about 1 million barrels of oil.

“They don’t want to shut down their production,” said Ole-Rikard Hammer, an analyst at Pareto Securities ASA in Oslo who’s tracked tanker markets for more than two decades. “The refining clients are buying less because of maintenance and the Iranians seem to prefer to keep oil in floating storage.”

The discount on Iran Heavy crude compared with Oman and Dubai petroleum is at its widest in more than a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The discounts on Iran’s Forozan, Soroosh and Norooz crudes have also widened.

Widening Discounts

Calls made after normal business hours to Ahmad Qalebani, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., and to Mohammad Souri, managing director of National Iranian Tanker Co., weren’t answered. Ali Asghar Arshi, NIOC’s manager of international affairs, wasn’t immediately available for comment.

National Iranian Tanker has a fleet of 28 supertankers, according to Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay data on Bloomberg. The remaining 13 carriers are all either moving or have been at their present locations for less than two weeks, according to the tracking data.

The extra vessels now storing are the Davar, Daylam and Hatef, according to the data. The Harsin has been added into the total again. It entered the Gulf of Suez in early March, circling for about a month before moving north. It then circled for two more weeks before moving south again. It was discounted from the last tally because it was moving at the time. It is now circling again in about the same position as in early March.

Charter rates for supertankers sailing to Japan from Saudi Arabia, the route that’s used to settle freight derivatives, fell 3.2 percent to 92.22 Worldscale points today, according to the London-based Baltic Exchange. Returns from the voyage lost 6.8 percent to $51,331 a day.

Suezmax rental income advanced 3.6 percent to $47,223 a day, according to the exchange. Aframaxes that transport 650,000-barrel cargoes slipped 11 percent to $8,537 a day.

--With assistance from Ladane Nasseri in Beirut. Editors: Stuart Wallace, John Deane

To contact the reporter on this story: Alaric Nightingale in London at Anightingal1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stuart Wallace at swallace6@bloomberg.net

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