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Winter LNG Shipping Rally Off to Early Start

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August 17, 2023

By Anna Shiryaevskaya and Ruth Liao (Bloomberg) —

Renting a liquefied natural gas tanker is getting more expensive sooner than usual this year amid expected winter demand and potential supply disruptions in Australia. 

Spot LNG shipping rates in the Pacific region soared above $100,000 a day for the first time since mid-January, and about three weeks earlier than in 2022, according to data from Spark Commodities, which tracks price assessments from LNG shipbrokers.

The rally in tanker rates reflects a steep contango in prices for LNG, said Tim Mendelssohn, chief executive officer of Spark. The market structure reflects increasingly tight supplies in the future, benefiting traders that can deliver shipments later when prices rise as the weather gets colder. 

Concerns are also mounting over potential disruptions in Australia if industrial action at three major LNG facilities goes ahead. Without Australian LNG, buyers in Asia would have to compete with Europe for cargoes from other sources such as the US, increasing voyage times and costs for vessels. 

While the strikes could free up as many as 60 vessels, charterers will probably hold the ships because of uncertainty on the duration of any disruption, Oystein Kalleklev, CEO of shipowner Flex LNG Ltd. said Wednesday. While most traders have taken ships on longer term charters, some are re-letting their vessels and fixing ships to each other, he said. 

LNG shipping forward rates for November show prices as high as $277,000-a-day for the Pacific and $286,000-a-day for the Atlantic, Spark data show.

Volumes in floating storage — where traders keep cargoes on the water — are also at higher-than-usual levels for the time of the year. On top of that, a drought affecting freshwater levels in the Panama Canal has also increased waiting times.

“There will be a lot of demand for the winter market,” Kalleklev said. “So prices will go up. There isn’t a lot of new LNG coming to the market near-term, which means the market will stay tight.”

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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