By Michelle Wiese Bockmann
(Bloomberg) — Charters of oil tankers to haul crude to the U.S., the world’s biggest importer, jumped 65 percent during the last four weeks from the prior period, lifting hire rates for the vessels, Morgan Stanley said.
There were 48 bookings of Suezmax tankers, able to carry 1 million barrels of oil apiece, for single voyages to the U.S., the bank said in an e-mailed report today. Another nine very large crude carriers, each with twice the cargo capacity, also were hired for journeys to the country, the report showed.
The extra activity helped the cost of hiring a Suezmax for a single voyage to almost triple to a two-month high, Morgan Stanley said. Average daily rates for the vessels rose threefold last week to $17,182, the highest level since Jan. 3, according to the Baltic Exchange, a London-based assessor of freight costs on more than 50 maritime routes. They gained a further 14 percent today to $19,532.
The exchange’s assessments exclude speed cuts that can increase earnings by reducing use of marine fuel, the shipping industry’s biggest expense. Fuel prices gained for nine weeks in 10 through Feb. 15, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 world ports.
About 27 percent of the U.S.-bound tankers will load at ports in West Africa in the four-week span, more than double the prior period’s share, Morgan Stanley said.
The global fleet of 479 Suezmaxes, the largest vessels to navigate the Suez Canal, will carry 21 percent of the 38.2 million barrels of crude to be shipped daily by sea this year, according to Clarkson Plc, the biggest shipbroker.
Benchmark hire costs for VLCCs fell 0.6 percent today to 33.75 industry-standard Worldscale points, according to the exchange. The rate implies the vessels are losing $1,662 daily on the route to Japan from Saudi Arabia, according to the bourse’s non-speed-adjusted formula. The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, which includes smaller ships, rose 0.9 percent to 683.