Despite healthy April VLCC cargo volumes for both MEG and WAfrica/East, these have not been sufficient to lift the struggling rate levels.
Indeed, rates have even softened slightly. VLCC earnings of around $5,000-$7,000 per day (for non eco types) is hardly sustainable over time but ships remain more than ample for now, Fearnleys reported.
The market would need to see increased volumes for all the major VLCC routes to lift the dismal earnings seen today.
The West Africa Suezmax market saw a quiet week. In the MEG, there continued to be a steady stream of cargoes, particularly out of Basrah where Suezmaxes were the preferred size range over VLCC’s.
Finally after a short delay, 1st decade West Africa cargoes began to show earlier this week and have continued to flow. Cargoes have become destination sensitive with owners preferring longer voyages with better flat rates.
The Black Sea and Med were fairly quiet this week. There is a particularly big CPC programme for May and when the activity does pick up and if West Africa continues to remain busy then this could be a catalyst to put pressure on rates.
Bunkers are becoming increasingly expensive on the back of the oil price breaching $70 per barrel putting further pressure on owners earning potential.
Aframaxes in the North Sea and Baltic experienced an upswing in rates last week, due to a rush of Baltic cargoes in the 18-20 window. Rates topped out on Monday and once again softened as this years’ ice season was coming to an end.
Hopefully, the upcoming summer market will deliver, as the ice season has been rather disappointing, Fearnleys said.
The Med and Black Sea market was boiling this week. Charterers were trying to secure a cheap, safe ship at low levels. Libyan activity helped owners and now we at least see numbers starting with an eight.
Going forward we expect rates to stabilise around the current levels, Fearnleys concluded.
Stealthgas announced this week the delivery of its last newbuilding LPG carrier, which marks the completion of its contracting programme.
The vessel delivered was a 22,000 cu m Ice Class semi-refrigerated hybrid scrubber fitted eco LPG carrier - ‘Eco Freeze’, the fourth and final semi- refrigerated eco LPG newbuilding.
Her delivery concluded Stealthgas’ expansion phase, which commenced in 2011 and totalled 26 newbuilding LPG carriers out of which, 20 were delivered from Japanese yards and six from South Korean yards.
Crowley Alaska Tankers also announced this week that it has completed the acquisition of three tankers from SeaRiver Maritime, under a charterback deal covering varying multi-year terms.
The Aframaxes ‘Liberty Bay’ and ‘Eagle Bay’ transport crude from Alaska to US West Coast refineries. The MR ‘S/R American Progress’ ships refined petroleum between the US Gulf and US East Coast ports.
Crowley has renamed the ships ‘Washington’, ’California’ and Oregon’, respectively.
“With the regulatory approvals in place and the sale officially complete, we are now focused on operating these tankers in the safest, most reliable manner possible,” said Tom Crowley, Crowley Maritime Corp chairman and CEO. “Our knowledge, passion, talent, ingenuity and helpfulness drive business for the company and provide the basis for highly successful partnerships, such as the one announced today.”
With the acquisition of the three vessels, the company now operates 40 Jones Act-qualified tankers in the US.
Crowley Alaska Tankers, based in Bellingham, Washington, with a field office in Valdez, Alaska, is a new subsidiary of Crowley Petroleum Holdings, part of the Crowley Maritime Corp group of companies.
Navios Maritime Acquisition Corp also announced that it had completed a $71.5 mill sale and leaseback agreement for four MR2s.
The proceeds were used to write off $69.25 mill of debt.
This agreement provides for 24 quarterly payments of $1.5 mill each, plus interest at LIBOR plus 305 bps per annum. Navios Acquisition has an obligation to purchase the vessels at the end of sixth year for $35.8 mill.
Angeliki Frangou, Navios Acquisition chairman and CEO, said, “We are pleased to have concluded a sale and leaseback agreement for four product tankers with a leading Chinese institution. We look forward to continuing to develop access to this attractive financing market.”
Broking sources reported the sale of the 2003-built VLCC FSO ‘Sea Equatorial’ to Ocean Tankers for $18.5 mill and the same vintage Aframax ‘Zirku’ to ZPMC for $10.5 mill. She will be converted to a semi-submersible heavy lift carrier.
Shandong Shipping was said to have bought the 2009-built MR sisters ‘Silver Express’ and ‘High Enterprise’ for $16.5 mill each, while PCL Shipping was believed to have purchased the 2013-built MR sisters ‘STI Fontivieille’ and ‘STI Ville’ for $26.5 mill each.
Finally, Nigerian interests were thought to have picked up the 2004-built Handysize ‘Rosita’ for a price said to be in the high $9 mills.
In the charter market, Navig8 was very active, reportedly taking four LR2s for six, option six months at $15,250 per day each.
Another LR2, the 2017-built ‘Searover’ was said to have been fixed to Chevron for 12 months at $15,500 per day, while Shell was reported to have fixed the LR2 newbuilding ‘Salamina’ for about $15,000 per day.
In the MR segment, the 2008-built ‘DL Navig8’ was believed taken by ST Shipping for 12 months at $12,750 per day.
Meanwhile, VLCC ordering continued.
Among the latest contracts placed were two VLCCs at DSME for Guggenheim Capital for a reported $88.4 mill each.