Tanker shipping rates are set to decline from current highs in 2016 as the trade in crude oil is forecast to decline due to ample stocking, and the fleet is expected to expand briskly, according to the latest edition of the Tanker Forecaster, published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.
Freight rates in the crude tanker market have been high because of the buoyant crude oil trade and a rise in floating storage. Rates in the product tanker market have also surged despite a strong growth in the fleet, as many product tankers moved into the crude oil market. High rates in the tanker market continued to attract a number of swing chemical/oil carriers into the products trade, while a number of bigger product tankers moved into the crude trade to benefit from higher earnings.
Stocking activity in both the crude and products sectors has increased substantially in recent times. This has led to a number of vessels serving as floating storage because land-based stowage was either full or too remote. Newbuilding activity has also picked up strongly and Drewry expects the upsurge in deliveries and returning of vessels from floating storage to cap freight rates as tonnage utilisation rates decline with increased fleet supply.
“Vessel owners need to moderate newbuilding activity as sustained high ordering activity risks adversely affecting tanker vessel earnings over the next five years” said Rajesh Verma, Drewry’s lead analyst for tanker shipping.
Firm tonnage demand and high floating storage will continue to support tanker freight rates in the near term. But fleet expansion on increased deliveries and the return of vessels from floating storage will start affecting tonnage utilisation rate from 2016, which will weaken freight rates.
“Looking further ahead, a decline in North American LTO capital expenditure and rig counts will lead to a recovery in US crude oil imports. This will provide a fillip to tonnage demand and push tonnage utilisation rates higher, offsetting the growth in fleet,” added Mr Verma.