Abundance of VLCCs Keep Market Rates Flat


  • The Atlantic lacked ‘steam’ both ex West Africa and the Americas, with considerable activity in the US Gulf. 
  • Suezmaxes saw a week of healthy activity in the Western Mediterranean and West Africa, following a busy period with VLCCs.
  • Aframaxes in the Mediterranean and Black Sea were trading more or less sideways, and Med voyages saw a slight dip in returns. 
  • Brazil’s Petrobras is scheduled to deliver its first VLCC crude cargo ‘Maran Cleo’ in Qingdao.
  • ‘Maersk Jamnagar’ and ‘Maersk Jeddah’ sold by Maersk Tankers for $30.3 mill each.
  • TNG has signed an additional six-month charter for one of its ECO MRs with a leading US charterer for $17,100 per day.
  • John Fredriksen’s Sea tankers orders four LR2s and two VLCCs at SWS in Shanghai costing around $500 mill.

According to an article published in the Tanker Operator Magazine, MEG’s VLCC programme for June was well under way with some 70 deals. However, the awaited flurry of activity did not occur. 

There were an increasing number of deals being concluded well under the radar at rates presumably and last done levels. Open tonnage remained in abundance.

US Gulf fixing 

The Atlantic also lacked ‘steam’ both ex West Africa and the Americas, although some activity was seen ex US Gulf. 

Considerable US Gulf fixing activity created some uncertainty, and rates flattened out after a marginal rise in June. 

According to Fearnleys, there is insufficient activity to change the present sentiment. 

Suezmaxes Trading in Atlantic 

Suezmaxes saw a week of healthy activity in all areas. Activity in the Americas has picked up again after being static for a few weeks – a much needed addition for Suezmaxes trading in the Atlantic.

Despite a good level of fixing activity, rates moved sideways, with owners struggling to clear out the tonnage overhang in the Western Mediterranean and West Africa, following a busy period with VLCCs.

With rates for Atlantic round voyages barely covering opex, there is limited downside to  owners waiting rather than fixing at raters on offer. 

Aframax Market

The Aframax market didn’t firm as expected. The market moved sideways, due to a lack of activity in the North Sea and that some Aframax stems were fixed on Suezmaxes.

Some vessels are still finding employment elsewhere offering better returns, but still this was not sufficient to push the rates in an upward direction.

Aframaxes in the Mediterranean and Black Sea were also trading more or less sideways. Although the rates improved slightly on recent Black Sea stems, straight cross- Med voyages saw a slight dip in returns. 

Fearnleys predicted a flat/soft market in the natural fixing window – supported by a healthy supply of available Aframax tonnage, especially if the Suezmaxes keep picking off smaller stems.

As for period business, Alibra Shipping reported that period crude rates were firm this week as substantial premiums were seen over spot market levels.

In the clean segment, a number of short period business was reported and the focus was on MRs. Oil prices remained under pressure due to the US/China trade spat.

VLCC crude cargo delivery by Petrobras

Brazil’s Petrobras is scheduled to deliver a VLCC crude cargo to bonded storage facilities it has leased at Qingdao by end-June, according to a port source and ship tracking data. 

This will be the first cargo delivered by Petrobras into its bonded storage facilities in Shandong Province after signing the lease in December. 

This was in line with the company’s plans to increase crude supplies to China by leasing bonded storage in the independent refining hub and offering a new grade of crude.

The VLCC ‘Maran Cleo’ left Angra dos Reis on 17th May and will arrive at Qingdao around 24th June, according to S&P Global Platts vessel tracking software cFlow. She is currently believed to be chartered to Petrobras.

Petrobras also started to export a new grade of crude- Buzios – this year to independent refineries, with a total of around 330,000 tonnes having arrived in the January-April period.


Buzios is similar in quality to Lula, with an API gravity of around 28.4 deg, and sulfur content of around 0.31%.

In 2018, about 66% of Petrobras’ crude exports went to China, and this is expected to increase further in line with production expansion this year. 

Renewal programme in the LR2 segment by Maersk Product Tankers

Maersk Product Tankers has confirmed the order for the remaining four out of 10 LR2 newbuildings from Dalian Shipyard. This order is part of an ongoing fleet renewal programme in the LR2 segment. 

Søren Meyer, Maersk Tankers Chief Asset Officer, said that LR2s are built to ensure a portfolio of vessels that best fits customers’ demands. The newbuildings will help to sustain a competitive fleet in a segment that is attractive to customers and owners alike. 

In May, 2018, the company confirmed the order of the first six vessels. The plan is to deliver the 10 LR2s from 2020 – 2022. They will come under Maersk Tankers’ commercial, technical and corporate management, the company said.

‘Maersk Jamnagar’ and ‘Maersk Jeddah’

Brokers reported that Maersk Tankers had recently sold the 2011-built LR2s ‘Maersk Jamnagar’ and ‘Maersk Jeddah’ to Greek interests for $30.3 mill each and had bought the 2011-built MR ‘Fidelity II’ for $18.25 mill.

Elsewhere, private Greek shipowner Nikolaos Vafias has made a significant investment in additional tonnage — purchasing three vessels in a week in deals worth in excess of $65 mill, sources said.

Counter-cyclical venture in 2016

Vafias has bought a single Capesize from a compatriot in a swoop that has clear parallels with his last counter-cyclical venture in the same segment in 2016.

He has also entered two LPG niches for the first time, with the purchase of a secondhand medium sized gas carrier of 38,000 cu m from a major Japanese owner and the acquisition of a resale new building of 11,000 cu m under construction in Japan, market sources said.

Vafias took five years away from shipping around the turn of the last decade after handing the running of Brave Maritime over to his son, Harry, in 2008.

He returned in 2013 with new vehicle Eco Dry Ventures, initially in the handysize sector.

Vafias senior was believed to be connected with the purchase of the 38,400 cu m ‘Viking River’ (built 2007) at a price of between $20 mill and $21 mill.

Another 11,000 cu m LPG carrier, set for delivery from a Japanese yard in 2021 costing about $30 mill, is said to complete his flurry of activity.

These recent deals pushed the group’s fleet to 82 ships, consisting of LPG carriers, product tankers, crude tankers, capes and smaller-sized bulkers.

Tankerska Next Generation (TNG)

In the charter market, Tankerska Next Generation (TNG) has signed an additional six-month charter for one of its ECO MRs with a leading US charterer for $17,100 per day.

The charterer has the opportunity to extend the lease agreement for up to 12 months, TNG said in a Zagreb Stock Exchange filing. TNG is majority-owned by Zadar-based peer Tankerska Plovidba.

‘Nordic Zenith’ by NAT

Nordic American Tankers (NAT) has confirmed that the Suezmax ‘Nordic Zenith’, has been period chartered to Equinor for around 12 to 15 months.

The contract is valued is between $9 mill and $11 mill, depending upon the scheduling of the vessel, NAT said.

‘Vukovar’ and ‘Pag’

Brokers reported that Koch had taken the 2015-built ‘Vukovar’ for six months at $17,000 per day and the ‘Pag’ for six to 12 months at $17,100 per day. Koch was also believed to have fixed the ‘Nord Swift’ for 12 months at $19,750 per day.

‘Suezmax George’ and ‘Oklahoma’

Trafigura was said to have fixed the ‘Suezmax George’, a 2011-built Suezmax for 12 months at $22,500 per day and the 2006-built Aframax ‘Oklahoma’ for 12 months at $18,250 per day. ‘Oklahoma’ had been reported as sold to Indonesian-based PT Trans. 

‘Ionic Althea’ and ‘Salamina’

Clearlake reportedly fixed the 2016-built ‘Ionic Althea’ for three years at $25,000 per day, while ST Shipping was thought to have fixed the 2018-built LR2 ‘Salamina’ for six months at $20,000 per day.

‘Brightoil Glory’

In the S&P sector, Delta Tankers was said to have purchased at auction the VLCC ‘Brightoil Glory’ built 2012 for $58 mill, while Andromeda was believed to have bought the 2000-built Suezmax for $13.2 mill.

‘Nordic Ruth’

Nordic Shipholding said that it entered into an S&P Memorandum of Agreement on 30th May  to sell the 2000-built Handysize ‘Nordic Ruth’ for a gross sale price of $5.8 mill. 

Navios and Samos 

A few more newbuildings have been reported recently, mainly concerning options being declared.

For example, Navios was said to have firmed up a third VLCC at Imabari, Evalend took a third VLCC at Hyundai and Kyklades declared two more Suezmaxes at Hyundai Samho.

Samos was also said to have ordered a Suezmax at JMU for $62.5 mill, including the fitting of a scrubber.

Reports were coming in at the time of writing that John Fredriksen’s Sea tankers had ordered four LR2s and two VLCCs at SWS in Shanghai in a deal worth around $500 mill.

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Source: Tanker Operator


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