VLCC rates hit a new year-to-date high as China’s Unipec fixed a higher-than-usual number of tankers ahead of the week-long National Day holiday.
The Baltic Exchange on 2 October assessed the benchmark Gulf-Far East rate at Worldscale 87, or USD104,256. That was more than nine points, or almost USD12,400, up from 1 October.
Unipec, which has been the world’s biggest VLCC charterer since 2012, fixed 16 VLCCs from 28 September to 2 October, according to brokers’ fixture data.
Eight ships – C Passion, Shinyo Kieran, New Globe, Brightoil Gem, Eliza, Mesdar, Otowasan and Long Hu San – were fixed on 1 October alone.
Unipec is the trading arm of Chinese national oil company Sinopec. In 2012, it fixed 527 VLCCs, overtaking Shell as the biggest hirer of supertankers. Unipec’s tally rose to 556 in 2013 and 566 in 2014.
A Singapore-based broker told IHS Maritime, “Fixing activity ahead of the Chinese National Day holiday was firmer than expected. Owners are pressing for higher rates and, given that the final quarter of the year is the seasonal peak for tankers, rates are not likely to weaken.”
The broker added that, with more than 40 VLCC cargoes remaining unfixed for mid-October, there was enough to go around for the available tankers.