It has been a week of attrition in the Middle East Gulf with neither side gaining the upper hand. A Mercuria cargo from Basrah saw 12 offers, but charterers ended up paying WS 62 on 270,000 tonnes. Although SK managed to cover at WS 59, this was on Athenian tonnage which was ex dry dock. Generally, long east is being evaluated at around WS 60 level. Going west we saw WS 32 paid basis cape/cape for 280,000 tonnes to the US Gulf. Activity in West Africa is helping reduce early available tonnage in the Middle East Gulf. On the benchmark 260,000 tonne West Africa/China run, the market had been steady at WS 60 although Unipec did very recently manage to cover at WS 58.75 on Maran Thetis.
Off the Continent, Vitol are reported to have paid $5.5 million for a Rotterdam/Singapore run but the Caribbean/east market continues to be the star performer for owners with rates of $7.0 million to Singapore and $8.0 million for China discharge.
In West Africa, rates for 130,000 tonne cargoes have continued to soften and after starting the week in the mid WS 80s, a re-let, the Aegean Horizon is now reported to have fixed at WS 75 for the US Gulf and WS 77.5 if USAC.
Delays in the Turkish Straits, which have reduced, have not prevented rates from slipping and the last seen here was Chevtex taking Besiktas tonnage at WS 92.5 basis 135,000 tonnes cargo. There remains significant long haul interest for both crude and fuel from Med-Black Sea and Cont-Baltic which does at least help thin the tonnage list and provide relief for those owners willing to go east.
In the Mediterranean, rates have been in free fall this week and the market has dropped to WS 100 for Ceyhan loading. There is underlying further downward pressure.
In the Baltic, the recently imposed Russian export tax has led to a lighter December programme and subsequently there has been a build-up of tonnage and rates have come off accordingly, with levels now settled at around WS 82.5. The 80,000 tonne cross North Sea market has unsurprisingly felt the cold draft here and levels have settled here in the very low WS 100s.
The Caribbean/up coast market for 70,000 tonne cargoes has seemingly stemmed the fall and now settled at WS 117.5.
It is very much a case of ‘status quo’ with rates here holding at around WS 130 for 55,000 tonnes to the US Gulf.
MRs on the Continent going transatlantic for 37,000 tonnes have seen a sharp reversal of fortunes as a number of ships failed subjects at end of last week and the increased availability of tonnage combined with slower demand saw rates fall almost 50 points with WS 180 now being on subjects.
In the US Gulf, the market, after holding steady at WS 130, saw a surge of enquiry and rates for 38,000 tonne cargoes increased sharply to WS 155/160. Owners will be hoping the increased rates here will entice potential ballasters to the UK-Cont to play the US market and help stabilise the UK-Cont market accordingly.