US-Bound Supertanker Rates Spike as More Ships Head to China

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May 10, 2013

Tanker Oliva offloading at the LOOP, image courtesy BoH/Wikipedia

(Bloomberg) — Charter rates for the largest oil tankers hauling Middle East crude to the U.S. climbed after stronger demand drew vessels to Asia, according to shipbroker Braemar Seascope Ltd.

Earnings to carry cargoes to China topped those for crude bound for the U.S., London-based Braemar Seascope said today in an e-mailed report. Rates “jumped up” because shipowners were unwilling to accept lower returns, it said.

Hire costs for very large crude carriers on the Saudi Arabia-to-U.S. voyage surged 29 percent this week to 23.27 industry-standard Worldscale points as of yesterday, according to figures from the London-based Baltic Exchange. That would be the biggest increase this year. Each of the tankers can hold 2 million barrels of oil.

“It started with cargoes to the east,” Kevin Sy, a Singapore-based freight-derivatives broker at Marex Spectron Group, said by e-mail. “Even if owners refuse a U.S.-bound cargo, they know quite a few eastbound cargoes are working, so in the end the U.S. charterers have to pay up as well. I won’t be surprised if rates ease off again after the last few May cargoes are covered.”

The route is based on a journey to the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port in the Gulf of Mexico from Ras Tanura in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil-export site, according to the exchange.

The supply of VLCCs available to load crude in the Persian Gulf over the next four weeks shrank to 60, the lowest for a four-week forward period since Nov. 15, according to data from Marex Spectron. The tally of ships was 76 at the start of the month. Rates will be “prevalent into next week,” according to Braemar Seascope.

– Rob Sheridan, Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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