Saturday, 10 January 2015

Plunging oil prices cause a surge in the shipping oil tanker market

There are winners and losers with the 48%+ drop in oil prices in recent times. The Shipping Industry is one winner as it is not only benefiting from lower operational costs but the oil tanker market is enjoying boom times but not from a growing transportation task.

Oil is in contango so traders and energy companies are buying and storing now in expectation of profiting from higher prices later this year. Land based storage is reaching capacity so the industry is switching to floating storage hence the surge in demand for oil tankers. In the next few months as much as 60 million barrels could soon be held in storage at sea.

Current charter rates for crude tankers is now US$35000/day and rising rapidly. This is the highest the tanker market has been since 2010. The shipping term for this practice is vessels going "Dark". This means that they effectively leave the transportation trade and instead enter the contango trade whereby they sit at anchorage brimming with oil waiting for the price to rise and then discharge their cargo.

The worlds largest oil tanker, "TI Europe", which has a capacity of 3.2 million barrels and is 380m long has gone "dark" and is off the coast of Singapore now. It was chartered by a Chinese oil trader who is waiting for the perfect time to sell her cargo.


Some forecasters believe the contango oil trade could ultimately see as much as 100 million barrels being stored at sea.

In the long term as alternative energies are favored and countries like the USA are self-sufficient for their energy needs, I wonder what the tanker market will look like then? 

We will we still see goliath vessels like the TI Europe operating or will they go the way of the dinosaurs?

All for now,

+Brad Skelton