It has been a slow week for owners in the Middle East Gulf, with charterers awaiting the Saudi program. Enquiry was sparse, some cargoes were split in to suezmaxes and COA business was to the fore. This has led to a weaker sentiment with rates for 270,000 tonnes going long east now assessed in the low/mid WS 70s which is down about 2/3 points from last week. Similarly, going west rates for 280,000 tonnes have eased marginally from WS 40 region down to around WS 38/39. However, with IP week next week and more activity expected for March liftings, the market is at a bit of a crossroads.
In West Africa, 260,000 tonnes to China initially held at WS 75 but with the lack of activity in the Middle East Gulf, sentiment has weakened and last seen here was Unipec taking the Maersk Heiwa at WS 71.5. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, a similarly slow week saw rates come off further with Bonaire/Singapore said to have been fixed now at around $4.5 million, in contrast to the $4.75 million reported a week ago. In the North Sea, Hound Point to South Korea was said to have fixed and failed at $4.95 million while a Skaw/South Korea run also failed at $5.1 million.
A replacement cargo fixed at WS 75 to USAC was the catalyst for a recovery in West Africa with this leading to a more bullish response from owners and with a number of cargoes hitting the market on the back of a heavier March program, rates here have firmed in to the low WS 80s.
In the Black Sea, rates have mirrored the stronger market in West Africa and have modestly increased with 135,000 tonnes fixed at WS 82.5 while the same was paid for 140,000 tonnes, with the option of South Korea at $3.08 million. Brokers feel that there is potential for further firming.
In the Mediterranean it has been an uneventful week with rates hovering in the mid /high WS 90s with Black Sea going in the very low WS 100s, although ENI did manage to cover at WS 87.5 but this was on a ship ex dry dock.
In the Baltic, a firmer sentiment saw rates quickly push up as charterers concluded their February program, which rolled into early March position and the market presently sits at around WS 112.5 representing a gain of around 12.5 points from a week ago. In the 80,000 tonnes cross North Sea trade rates have followed suit with the market now at WS 110 region in contrast to the WS 100 at the end of last week.
After a very disappointing week for owners plying the 70,000 tonnes Caribs/up coast trade last week, fortunes have turned full circle here as weather delays and a tight tonnage list pushed the market up over 50 points to the low WS 150s.
On the continent, it has been a grim week for owners. Rates for 55,000 tonnes from ARA to US Gulf have been losing around 35 points, as WS 112.5 was agreed midweek and subsequently WS 110 is said to have been paid on ballast from USAC.
It has been a much better week for owners in the Middle East Gulf where rates for 75,000 tonnes to Japan have climbed around 25 points to settle now in the low WS 120s and, in similar vein, the market for 55,000 tonnes to Japan has added 10 points to settle in the low WS 120s.
There has been a sense of déjà vu in the 37,000 tonnes Cont/USAC trade with the market stagnant at around WS 130 and the arb closed here. While in the 38,000 tonnes back haul trade from US Gulf to The Continent, plenty of tonnage in the natural fixing window has seen rates continue to weaken, with the market now at just below WS 75 in contrast to the WS 82.5 of a week ago.
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