ASIA TANKER: VLCCs Lowest Since Early February, But May Recover

Atlantic Pioneer crude oil tanker SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)–Asia’s crude tanker market may bottom out in the coming week, with charterers rushing to fix cargoes before the completion of booking activities for August.

However, any upside is likely to be limited due to high availability of vessels in the Middle East, though tumbling bunker prices will help cover some losses of owners.

The rate for a 260,000-metric-ton Very Large Crude Carrier from the Middle East to Japan fell to Worldscale 45.90 Tuesday from W47.50 a week ago, hovering around its weakest level since early February, the Baltic Exchange said.

The cash earning for owners was assessed Tuesday at minus $413 a day, up from minus $1,734 a week ago.

So far, 94 cargoes have been fixed to be lifted this month, down from 102 lots a year ago, data from Meiwa International showed.

While charterers may still need to fix up to 30 cargoes, they won’t face much trouble as “there are still plenty of ships remaining for August,” shipbroker Simpson, Spence & Young said in a note.

The rate for a VLCC from West Africa to China hit another yearly low of W44.43 Tuesday, as the 80,000-ton Aframax rate from Southeast Asia to the east coast of Australia inched up to W97.50 from W97.11 a week ago.

For vessels carrying clean petroleum products, the rate for a 30,000-ton tanker from Singapore to Japan rose to W158.79 Monday, its highest since end-April, as tonnage has tightened due to Indian exports and Indonesian imports.

However, the long-range markets are plagued by plant woes in Taiwan, where Formosa Petrochemical Corp. (6505.TW) has reduced imports of naphtha and halted exports of gasoline and middle distillates.

The freight rate for a 75,000-ton LR-2 cargo from the Middle East to Japan fell to W125 Tuesday from W127.08 a week ago, while the rate for a 55,000-ton LR-1 cargo for the same route eased marginally to W130.50 from W130.54.

-By Max Lin, Dow Jones Newswires