Oil Traders Seen Storing Millions of Barrels at Sea on Slump

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Oil Traders Seen Storing Millions of Barrels at Sea on Slump
Aerial view of Tankers and other vessels waiting off shore Marseille's port in Martigues. JBC estimates that 30 million to 60 million barrels will be stored offshore in the next several months. Photographer: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Oil companies are seeking supertankers to store 20 million barrels of crude as a collapse in the price of the commodity creates a trading opportunity last seen during the 2008-09 recession, a Greek shipping company said.

Companies inquired about booking 10 very large crude carriers for storage in the past several days, Odysseus Valatsas, the chartering manager for Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd. near Athens, said by e-mail today. A “handful” have already been hired for the trade, he said, citing discussions with shipbrokers and others working in the shipping market. Dynacom’s fleet can carry about 65 million barrels of oil.

Oil collapsed 48 percent in 2014 and prices for later this year are now so far above current costs that traders can make money from buying cargoes and storing them on ships, according to JBC Energy GmbH. As many as 60 million barrels could be held offshore within the next several months, the Vienna-based consultant predicted on Jan. 6. Traders stored 100 million barrels at sea in 2009, Frontline Ltd., a tanker owner, said at the time.

“It looks more and more likely that you’ll see more floating storage and it’s going to be good” for ship owners, Eirik Haavaldsen, a shipping analyst at Pareto Securities SA in Oslo, said by phone. “The re-emergence of floating storage is what could move the crude tanker market this year from being rather good to possibly very very good.”

Frontline Surge

Shares of Frontline rose as much as 14 percent in Oslo today to the highest in almost a year. They closed up 9.5 percent at 28.70 krone ($3.74).

Shipping costs gained today, with day rates for supertanker shipments to Japan from Saudi Arabia climbing 1 percent to $82,216 a day, the most for the time of year since at least 2009, according to data from the Baltic Exchange in London.

Brent crude for August traded at $55.87 a barrel as of 4:20 p.m. in London, a premium of $6.75 compared with February. That gap needs to be about $6.50 to cover hiring a ship and other costs associated with storing crude, according to E.A. Gibson Shipbrokers Ltd. in London.

JBC estimates that 30 million to 60 million barrels will be stored offshore in the next several months. The higher end of that forecast is about the same as Denmark’s annual consumption.

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