Crude Oil-Tanker Spot Bookings Seen 5% Higher in 2012

Spot, or single-voyage, bookings for crude oil-tankers increased by 5 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, according to Poten & Partners Inc., a New York-based consulting firm and shipbroker.

The number of Suezmax tankers hired over the same period gained more than 10 percent, spurred by an increase in loadings from the Caribbean and Persian Gulf, Poten said in an e-mailed report Jan. 4. Each Suezmax tanker is able to haul 1 million barrels of crude.

Spot fixtures of the largest crude carriers, able to carry twice as much as Suezmaxes, increased by 5 percent last year, Poten said. Bookings of Aframaxes and Panamaxes, smaller than Suezmax tankers, each increased about 3 percent from 2011, Poten said.

China International United Petroleum & Chemical Co., known as Unipec, booked the most crude tankers last year, with 707 fixtures reported, compared with Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 701 fixtures, Poten said. Shell was the top hirer in 2011.

Earnings for VLCCs hauling Middle East oil to Asia, the tanker industry’s busiest trade route, fell for a seventh session because of a surplus of available tankers, according to Oslo-based RS Platou Markets AS.

VLCCs’ daily earnings on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan voyage slid 2.7 percent to $15,592, data from the London-based Baltic Exchange showed today. Its assessments don’t reflect speed cuts aimed at curbing use of ship fuel, or bunkers, the industry’s biggest expense.

Fuel Price

The price of fuel was unchanged at $620.65 a metric ton, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 ports.

Charter rates for the tankers gained 0.3 percent to 43.2 Worldscale points, according to the exchange. That’s a third straight gain, the data show.

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 43.2 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, slipped 1.2 percent to 671, according to the exchange.

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