In the Middle East Gulf, it has been another slow week and rates continued to ease. Brokers are suggesting the lighter amount of business is partially because of tonnage previously taken on period/storage now loading and eating in to the normal volumes, which is creating nervousness amongst owners. GS Caltex is understood to have covered 270,000 tonnes to South Korea at WS 50.5 level. A China discharge was reportedly fixed at WS 51, while going west, after Bahri paid WS 30 cape/cape for 280,000 tonnes to the US Gulf, a Shell re-let is now reported to have agreed WS 28 for Valero.
Unsurprisingly, rates for 260,000 tonnes West Africa to China have also softened and after Unipec took two ships at WS 58 and WS 57.5 respectively, they are now understood to have taken Leonidas at WS 55. The same charterer apparently had eight offers for their 29 March/1 April cargo which is now on subjects, but no details to hand yet.
Even the Caribbean, which has been the strongest performing market has softened here with $7.3 million reported from Caribbean to Singapore while a US Gulf load went at around $6.95 million, again basis Singapore discharge, although this may now have failed on subjects.
In West Africa, it has been a better week for owners. An active Caribs/up coast market absorbed significant levels of tonnage, thus thinning the West Africa list as charterers looked to cover their second decade cargoes. Although there is a report of WS 90 having been paid in to Europe and a number of fixtures at WS 87.5, rates have eased again and would appear now to have settled at around maximum WS 85. This level is considered under pressure as there is a significant overhang of tonnage going in to the last decade of March.
Despite Turkish straits delays easing, Black Sea rates have increased this week as they benefit from a stronger West Africa market. Litasco took Minerva Marina at WS 87.5 basis 140,000 tonnes cargo and ENI are understood to have paid WS 95 on a replacement cargo loading 12 March for 135,000 tonnes cargo size. Long haul business from the Mediterranean has also helped thin the tonnage list here.
In the Mediterranean, a very busy start to the week saw around 25 ships go on subjects. Despite this activity, rates hardly moved as the massive surplus of tonnage put paid to any over enthusiasm from owners. Petrogal did manage to cover a Sidi Kerir/Portugal run at WS 72.5 but this was considered a ‘one off’ deal, being on a ship that was rumoured to have limited trading ability and some saying not a true reflection of the market. A number of ships went for long haul business and with the list now looking lighter, rates have moved up from around 80/82.5 to WS 90/95 level for Ceyhan loading.
In the Baltic, rates for 100,000 tonnes no heat initially held at WS 87.5 but have now slipped to barely WS 85 and with a report of a non-ice vessel now being fixed, this points to a potential early end to the ice season there and potential further erosion of rates. The 80,000 tonne cross North Sea market has remained steady at around WS 97.5.
Steady enquiry for early tonnage meant the Caribbean market for 70,000 tonnes going up coast continued to firm and rates have nudged up further to WS 190 level.
The market from Continent to the US Gulf has remained under pressure. There was a report of WS 125 being agreed, but this was for a ship back-loading in the same port, so no ballast involved. Subsequently this deal failed and levels are being evaluated at around WS 130 for 55,000 tonnes.
The market has continued to firm as the prolonged cold spell in USAC leads to sustained demand. With increased enquiry for Nigeria discharge as well, this has led to a tight tonnage list and rates have continued to climb all week, with WS 170 now being on subjects basis 37,000 tonnes cargo quantity.
The 38,000 tonne backhaul route from the US Gulf to UK-Cont has seen healthy demand and with the Cont/Transatlantic market firming so quickly, there has been a diminishing supply of ballasters from USAC. Rates here, which started the week at WS 75 have firmed to WS100 plus.
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