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Mideast Oil-Tanker Glut Seen in Survey Reaching Six-Week Low

A surplus of the largest oil tankers available for loading in the Middle East is poised to reach a six-week low, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

There are 15 percent more very large crude carriers for hire over the next 30 days than there are cargoes, the median estimate of seven shipbrokers and owners showed today. That’s the smallest excess since Nov. 27, according to prior figures. No surveys were carried out for the weeks including Dec. 25 and Jan. 1.

The supply of VLCCs until Jan. 20 shrank by five ships to 20 with about 16 cargoes available in the same period, “which is absolutely tight,” Kevin Sy, a Singapore-based freight-derivatives broker at Marex Spectron Group, said in an e-mailed report. Still, the number of available tankers for the month’s last 10 days stayed at 55, Sy said.

“We still have enough ships for expected volumes in January,” Per Mansson, a shipbroker for 31 years and managing director of Norocean Stockholm AB, which handles tanker charters, said by phone today.

Daily earnings for VLCCs on the benchmark Middle East-to-Asia voyage fell 3.1 percent to $15,107, leaving them down 8.5 percent from the start of the year, according to the London-based Baltic Exchange. Each of the ships can hold 2 million barrels of crude.

Reduced Speeds

The exchange’s assessments don’t reflect speed cuts aimed at reducing fuel costs, the biggest expense for owners, who can boost returns by slowing tankers on return journeys after unloading cargoes. The cost of marine fuel was unchanged for a second session today at $620.65 a metric ton, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 ports.

Charter rates for VLCCs on the benchmark voyage slid 0.6 percent to 42.92 Worldscale points, the exchange’s data showed.

The Worldscale system is a method for pricing oil cargoes on thousands of trade routes. Each individual voyage’s flat rate, expressed in dollars a ton, is set once a year. Today’s level means hire costs on the benchmark route are 42.92 percent of the nominal Worldscale rate for that voyage.

The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, a broader measure of oil- shipping costs that includes vessels smaller than VLCCs, fell for an eighth session to 663, according to the exchange. The gauge last rose on Dec. 19.

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