Financial Times: Oil tanker rates to stay high until year-end, says Euronav chief
Oil tanker rates to stay high until year-end, says Euronav chief | Financial Times
Harry Dempsey in London YESTERDAY
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
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
“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.
Crude exporters would continue to avoid the entire fleet under Cosco, despite reassurance from the
group that US sanctions affect only its subsidiaries, Mr De Stoop predicted.
Supplies have been tightened further by some oil majors reportedly no longer chartering ships that
have done recent business with Venezuela, as the Latin American country languishes under US
Analysts say expensive shipping, a knock-on effect of the trade war and tariffs, is a harbinger of a
more protectionist global economy where costs rise for everyone and oil demand takes a hit.
“It’s a warning for the world about what’s going to happen if we deglobalise,” said Adi Imsirovic,
research associate at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. “It will definitely have an impact” on
the oil price, he added. “It’s a tax.”
Mr Imsirovic said the combination of higher shipping costs and slower economic growth was
“putting a lot of pressure on the Saudis”, together with its Opec partners and Russia, to cut oil
supplies and support the oil price.
Euronav’s Brussels-listed shares rose above €10 earlier this month, and are up more than 60 per
cent so far this year.