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Crude Oil Tanker Glut Expands in Persian Gulf to Curb Rates

A glut of oil tankers competing to haul 2 million barrel cargoes of crude from ports in the Persian Gulf expanded, hindering ship owners’ ability to achieve better freight rates.

There are 22 percent more very large crude carriers, or VLCCs, seeking charters over the next 30 days than probable cargoes from the world’s largest loading region, according to the median in a Bloomberg survey of seven shipbrokers and owners today. The excess last week was 17 percent.

Earnings for the vessels globally climbed 16 percent to $14,709 a day last week, their third consecutive advance, according to Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker. That’s still less than the $24,200 that Frontline Ltd., the tanker operator led by billionaire John Fredriksen, needs for the ships to break even.

“It’s going to take a while for the VLCC market to return to balance, at least a year but probably longer,” Jonathan Chappell, an analyst at Evercore Partners in New York, said by e-mail today. “There is still four years of overcapacity that needs to be absorbed before fleet utilization can return to levels where rates are meaningfully profitable for a sustainable period.”

Charter rates for VLCCs shipping crude to Japan from Saudi Arabia, as measured by the industry-standard Worldscale system, fell 3 percent today to 34.84 points, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London. That means the ships are earning 34.84 percent of a dollars-per-ton flat rate, set once a year by the Worldscale Association in London and New York.

Earnings Plunge

Daily earnings for the tankers halved, plunging 55 percent to $1,701, exchange data showed.

The price of fuel, or bunkers, the industry’s biggest expense, was little changed at $622.85 a metric ton, figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 ports showed today.

The Baltic Dirty Tanker Index, a broader measure of oil-shipping costs that includes vessels smaller than VLCCs, declined 0.9 percent to 669, the biggest drop since March 15, according to data from the exchange.

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