Oil-Tanker Charter Costs Reach Two-Month High on Vessel Demand

Charter rates for the largest oil tankers on the industry’s busiest trade route reached a two-month high as demand for the vessels strengthened.

Hire costs for very large crude carriers on the benchmark Saudi Arabia-to-Japan voyage rose 2.4 percent to 37.15 industry-standard Worldscale points, data from the London-based Baltic Exchange showed today. That was the 10th straight increase and lifted rates to the highest level since Jan. 21.

The supply of supertankers available in the Persian Gulf until April 10 declined by five, according to an e-mailed report from Marex Spectron Group today. There is “potential to see firmer rates” as more cargoes for loading in that span become available, according to Nikos Varvaropoulos, an official at Athens-based Optima Shipbrokers Ltd. The number of tankers booked to load this month rose to 115, compared with 102 in February, Marex Spectron figures showed.

“This trend is continuing for early April, which will be a nice boost for the market,” Odysseas Valatsas, chartering manager for Athens-based Dynacom Tankers Management Ltd., Greece’s second-largest VLCC operator, said by e-mail. “There is increased demand from March 20 onward.”

Daily returns on the benchmark route jumped 59 percent to $5,593, exchange data showed. VLCCs lost money on the voyage for seven weeks through March 14, according to the figures. Each of the tankers can hold 2 million barrels of crude.

Return Voyage

The bourse’s assessments don’t account for owners improving returns by securing cargoes for return-leg voyages or reducing speed to burn less fuel. The price of fuel, or bunkers, the industry’s main expense, was little changed at $626.06 a metric ton, figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 ports 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 37.15 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, gained 1.1 percent to 671, according to the exchange.

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