Oil tanker rates to stay high until year-end


, says Euronav chief US sanctions on Chinese shipowner and new emissions rules have led to tightening of supply

Rates to hire oil supertankers are likely to remain very high until the end of the year, said the head of a major shipping operator, which could squeeze the profits of Asian refiners such as Sinopec and US exporters such as Occidental Petroleum. Supertanker charter rates rose above $200,000 a day earlier this month, after the US slapped sanctions on subsidiaries of Cosco, a major Chinese shipowner, and other vessels were taken to dry dock to be fitted with new kit that controls sulphur emissions.

Hugo De Stoop, chief executive of Euronav, which owns one of the world’s biggest fleets of supertankers, told the Financial Times that “it will take a few weeks or even months” for prices to settle. Mr De Stoop said spot prices had come down from the peak this month but remained elevated in the past week at about $100,000 a day for very large crude carriers. Such ships were being chartered for about $40,000 a day a month earlier. Shipbrokers say traders have been scrambling to secure such ships, which can carry 2m barrels of oil, since the US last month sanctioned two subsidiaries of Cosco over their alleged involvement in facilitating Iranian oil sales. Mr De Stoop said Euronav, which has 90 per cent of its fleet chartered on the spot market, was “going to have one of the best quarters we’ve ever had” with an estimated day rate of $65,000 to $75,000 on average for its supertankers. He expected another disruption to supply before the environmental rules take effect in January 2020 because of a “lack of knowledge” about the number of ships fitted with so-called scrubbers. These are devices that strip sulphur from vessels’ emissions, allowing them to run on heavy fuel oil.Frode Morkedal, head of shipping research at Clarksons Platou Securities, said some shipowners were planning to delay retrofits until spring 2020 to take advantage of higher prices. From January, they can still run without scrubbers on fuel that is lighter in sulphur but likely to be more expensive. “Our official forecast for next year is $60,000 a day but we could see higher rates as ships postpone their retrofit,” he said, adding that a doubling of US exports of crude destined for Asia — one of the world’s longest sea routes — as new pipelines came online would also sustain high prices. Euronav has stockpiled 3m barrels of low sulphur fuel oil, giving it room to delay retrofits. Supertanker rates of $100,000 a day would add $2.50 a barrel to costs for Asian refineries, Mr Morkedal said, denting their margins.




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