Suezmaxes set for slow week despite China’s return to work

Liz McCarthy - Lloyd's List

Monday 2 February 2009

A QUIET week in the suezmax market pushed rates down, with little hope of a rebound today, writes Liz McCarthy.

“For suezmaxes in West Africa there was not enough activity to sustain rates,” said Norwegian broker Fearnleys in its weekly report.

Brokers said that the week had been particularly quiet, with only a handful of vessels fixed in the West Africa and the Mediterranean regions. The Chinese new year holiday was thought to have slowed activity, but the week ended quietly even as countries in Asia returned to work.

Fixtures that were concluded were mostly replacement vessels, brokers said, as bad weather had delayed ships.

“There was so much fixing last week around a concentrated window, it was inevitable that with all the bad weather we’ve seen, that somebody would be looking for a replacement,” said a Gibson broker. He said that delays in the US Gulf and the Mediterranean due to storms had done little to push rates up though, with too many vessels still available.

“If you go forward, there is tonnage available. [Rates] might tread water at these levels for a couple of days, or [they] may even go down,” the broker said.

Rates on the Baltic Exchange’s TD5 route, from West Africa to the US Atlantic Coast, closed on Friday at W78, or $37,000 per day, from W80 a week earlier. Geneva-based Riverlake Shipping put its rates down to W70, or around $31,800 per day, on the same route.

One charterer looking for a replacement ship was US oil major ExxonMobil, which fixed a Gemini vessel for W80 for a trip from West Africa to the UK Continent, with February 14-15 loading dates.

Brokers reported that the lowest rate concluded on the route last week was by ConocoPhillips. The US-based tanker operator took the 147,450 dwt, 2000-built Jag Lateef for a trip from West Africa to the UG Gulf for W68.5, with a February 16 loading date.

“If we get any lower than that, [for] owners it’s just not worth their while to make any money on it, so they just won’t bother,” said the London broker. “We’ve seen the bottom.”

He expected activity to pick up this week as the Chinese would be back at work, but rates would be kept down by too many ships. “As soon as cargoes come in, there’ll be quite a bit of competition and then [owners] won’t be able to push [rates up],” the broker said. He added that if a rise in rates did occur it would happen nearer the end of the week.

It is a very similar scenario in the Black Sea and Mediterranean market, with plenty of tonnage available for the next fixing window at the end of February. “For a lot of charterers, if they felt the market was going to push up, then they would work further ahead. But they don’t feel under that pressure,” the Gibson broker said.

Riverlake Shipping was calling rates on the Black Sea/Mediterranean route at W90 on Friday, or nearly $45,000 per day, while the Baltic Exchange’s TD6 route was W89, or $36,700 per day.

Riverlake Launches New ReTI Design

Riverlake has launched an updated version of the ReTI with added functionality that enables the user to gain further insight into the industry standard index.

The index is the accumulation of all key European oil tanker shipping routes for crude oil, dirty petroleum products and clean products.

With the new functionality the user is now able to choose from two types of graphical display, and also adjust the timeframe to suit their needs.

Today, the ReTI hit an all time low of  598.79, a full 728.93 drop from the all time high of 1,327.72 seen last summer. 

For more information about the new functionalities and to gain further insight in to the ReTI and how it reflects the state of the European tanker market, visit:

Aframaxes fall sharply after flat week of trading

Liz McCarthy - Lloyd's List

SEVERE lack of activity in the aframax tanker market has pushed rates down this week, writes Liz McCarthy.

Brokers reported that the market had been “very flat”, with one commenting that nothing was going on apart from “depressing news”.

Rates have come off on all major aframax routes, with a substantial drop in the cross-Mediterranean sector. Spot rates for North Sea to Continent routes fell by half overnight from $23,750 per day on Monday to $11,000 per day yesterday.

The Baltic Exchange’s TD11 route, from Banias to Lavera, dropped to W107, or $27,800 per day, from W139 a week ago.

“People had been hoping that bad weather would bring port delays, but that has not really materialised,” one London broker said.

Delays in the Bosporus Straits, linking the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, were still at around three to four days, as they have been for a couple of weeks.

The broker said there had been hardly any activity in the Mediterranean and that many broker rates assessments were “pretty much hypothetical”.

A lack of fresh inquiries meant the tonnage list was simply building up, he said. “If you look at early positions, on every day it’s well stocked. There are no obvious thin patches.”

A broker from Braemar Seascope agreed, adding that although there were a few rumoured cargoes in the Mediterranean, none carried any significance.

“Ultimately you cannot move a market upwards without cargo, as you have no ammunition,” the London broker said.

Charterers are holding back from fixing cargoes, possibly so that they can impose lower rates than were previously done, the Braemar broker said.

Fixture lists showed that Italian oil company Eni took the 105,495 dwt, 2006-built Mitera Marigo with a loading date of February 2 in in Novorossiysk to the Mediterranean for W150.

However, the Braemar broker said the fixture was one of the last reported rates but did not reflect what was happening in the market yesterday.

Geneva-based Riverlake Shipping yesterday put a cross-Mediterranean trip at W115, or around $37,700 per day, and a Black Sea trip at W125, or around $39,300 per day.

There have been reports that a strike could take place in the French port of Lavera tomorrow, but the London broker doubted it would affect the market.

“People hope these will have a serious effect, but they will not. They are just little blips,” he said.

He added that Russia’s February loading programmes were yet to be signed, creating uncertainty among owners in both the Black Sea and Baltic Sea markets.

Rates in the North Sea and Baltic region have also come off. The London broker said he had only seen two or three cargoes worked this week. Rates had just slid away after BP took an early February loadingfor W100 and Conoco fixed a vessel for W90.

Persian Gulf Tanker Rates May Extend Slump as Contango Shrinks

By Alaric Nightingale
Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of delivering Middle East crude to Asia may drop for an eighth day amid signs an oil- pricing structure that encouraged sea storage is disappearing and as Chinese Lunar New Year holidays cut demand.
Royal Dutch Shell Plc sold 600,000 barrels of North Sea Forties crude for delivery in mid-February near Scotland’s Orkney Islands to oil trader Vitol Group yesterday, the companies said. The cargo, already on board the tanker Oliva, has been anchored off the U.K. coast since December, according to ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
Oil companies and traders kept as much as 80 million barrels of crude on tankers as a so-called contango, where buyers pay more for supplies later in the year than now, allowed them to profit from storing the fuel. The incentive to hold European oil at sea is shrinking as the spread between first and 12th month crude narrows to about $9.30 a barrel from $17 in early December.
The narrowing contango may mean there’s less demand for sea storage, “one of the key factors that has helped to support this market recently,” Gilles Rolland, a director at Geneva-based Riverlake Shipping SA, Switzerland’s largest shipbroker, said by e-mail today. There’s also been an “expected” drop in tanker demand because of the weeklong Chinese holidays, he said.
Reliance Industries Ltd., owner of the world’s largest oil- refining complex at Jamnagar on the west coast of India, booked the tanker Samco Scandinavia at 55 Worldscale points to ship a cargo to the facility. That’s little changed from the Baltic Exchange’s equivalent rate of 55.46 Worldscale points for consignments to Singapore.

Benchmark Rate

The 265-year-old shipping bourse’s benchmark rate, based on Saudi Arabian consignments to Japan, slipped 1 percent to 54.15 Worldscale, its seventh daily decline.
Worldscale points are a percentage of a nominal rate, or flat rate, for more than 320,000 specific routes. Flat rates for every voyage, quoted in U.S. dollars a ton, are revised annually by the Worldscale Association in London to reflect changing fuel costs, port tariffs and exchange rates.
Each flat rate assessment gives owners and oil companies a starting point for negotiating hire rates without having to calculate the value of each deal from scratch.
A rate of 54.15 points for a Japan cargo works out at $48,876 a day, according to the Baltic Exchange. Globally the carriers are making $44,322 a day. Frontline Ltd., the largest owner of the vessels, said on Nov. 28 it needed $34,700 a day to break even on each of its supertankers, a 10 percent increase compared with Aug. 21.

Riverlake Group Announcement

Riverlake Group is pleased to announce the following:
Riverlake Holding, the mother company of the group has implemented the following managerial structure effective 1st January 2009.

Marc Lecoanet is the Chief Executive Officer of the Group and Chairman of the Board.

Didier Fert, formerly a director is appointed as Chief Operating Officer with day to day responsibility for the various business units within the group.

Didier is also Vice-chairman of the board. He will together with Alex Cooper continue to manage the Shipmanagement activities of the group, Swiss Tanker Management (STM).

Alex Cooper, formerly a director of RLS Shipping is appointed Group Marketing Officer. Alex will be in charge of marketing the Riverlake Group activities. He will also have a particular focus on STM.

Marc Poyet has been recruited as Chief Financial Officer. Marc commences February 16th and will have responsibility for the Group Finance strategy as well as supervising the Admin-Hr department.

Marc, age 38, has a long experience in finance and shipping. Prior to joining Riverlake he held the position of Chief Financial Officer at ABC Maritime. We are delighted to have Marc joining us and are convinced that he will make a great contribution to the development of our activities.

Captain Edisher Chiaureli, until 31st December 2008 the operations manager of Riverlake Shipping, is appointed as Group Operations Manager effective 1st January 2009. Reporting directly to him are:

  • Chantal Husson, now the Operations Manager of Riverlake Shipping.
  • Captain Jaspal Singh, formerly of V ships, who has joined the group shipmanagement company STM as Operations Manager.
  • Gwenael Barthelemy, formerly head of Total (Geneva) demurrage department, who has joined as head of Riverlake group demurrage activities
Tanya Egger, formerly of our finance department, has been appointed to manage an internal system control. This has now been fully implemented. Tanya has been with Riverlake since December 2007 and was previously with KPMG.

In respect of Riverlake Shipping, a wholly owned subsidiary of Riverlake Holding:

François Can, Gilles Rolland and Franck Petit are confirmed as Directors of Riverlake Shipping.

We are delighted to announce that Patrick Bruas, Gilberto Palacios and Thore Thoresen have been newly appointed as Directors.

Patrick who joined from Cargo Maritime focuses on our African activities.

Gilberto has also joined from Cargo Maritime and will primarily focus on projects and time charters.

Thore, who joined from Nor-ocean, has been with Riverlake Shipping since November 2007 and heads our S&P.

We wish them great success in their new positions. They have the task of continuing the growth of Riverlake Shipping brokerage activities and together with the rest of the management team further developing and strengthening Riverlake Group.

For any questions or further information please contact:
Marc Lecoanet
Chief Executive Officer
Tel +41.22/906.79.30
Didier Fert
Chief operating Officer
Tel +41.22/906.79.30
Or view the group website

Geneva 19th January 2009


CITAC Report December 2008

The latest CITAC Report is now available for download.

To download, go to:

Riverlake Timecharter Calculation Now Online

A new and free TIMECHARTER EQUIVALENT CALCULATION TOOL is now available ONLINE. Worldscale and bunker prices are given by default with daily on going values for each individual route provided by Riverlake Shipping and SIB (SWISS INTERNATIONAL BUNKERS).  

TCE calculation is based on a round voyage with standard specification for vessels and usual conditions of chartering. 

To access the timecharter calculation tool, please click on the link below:

New 2009 Flat Rates Impact ReTI

Please note that today we have seen a new low in the ReTI value, at 646.81.  This is mainly due to the new 2009 flat rates that brought down the ReTI value by over 100 points at the turn of the new year, and also due to the downturn in market rates in recent days and weeks.  We are still seeing deals which are being fixed using 2008 flat rates, but for consistency we decided to implement 2009 flat rates as of 1st January. For information, please see the following increases:
AG/F.East 270k - 39% increase
WAF/US Gulf 130k - 37% increase
X MED 130k - 29% increase
X UK Contintent 80k - 18% increase    
As a general rule, we have noticed an increase of approximately 40% on longer voyages, 30% on medium voyages, and 20% on shorter voyages, as is highlighted by the figures above.

Sharp rise in Somali pirate attacks

November 21, 2008

With 30 per cent of Swiss-bound goods passing through the
Gulf of Aden, the sharp rise in Somali pirate attacks is "alarming", warn the federal authorities.


The Swiss merchant navy is at risk, according to the Federal National Economic Supply Office. Swiss-based ship owners and shipping companies are also worried by the surge in Somali piracy.

According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), there were 264 piracy attacks around the world in 2007. By September this year there had been 199. But in the Gulf of Aden and off war-torn and lawless Somalia and its breakaway region of Puntland, the number of attacks doubled to 60 in 2007 and has soared to 92 so far this year.

Eight vessels have been seized in the past two weeks alone, including a massive Saudi supertanker loaded with $100 million (SFr122 million) worth of crude oil. Several hundred crew are now in the hands of Somali pirates.

Landlocked Switzerland has one of the most modern merchant navies in the world: 33 privately operated tankers, container ships and bulk cargo carriers fly under the Swiss flag in international waters. They are operated by six Swiss shipping companies and can transport up to 900,000 tonnes.

"Like others, Swiss ships often travel through the Gulf of Aden or along the Somali coasts, so they too are at risk," Michael Eichmann, director of the Federal National Economic Supply Office, told swissinfo.

His office is responsible for overseeing the supply of goods to Switzerland and can decide what use the Swiss merchant navy can be put to, if necessary.

With some 30 per cent of Swiss trade passing via this region, the rise in attacks is alarming, Eichmann admitted.


Strong measures


Michael Deslarzes, chief executive officer of Massoel Meridian shipping company in Geneva, echoed this concern.

"It is certain that the threat around the Horn of Africa and along the coast of Somalia has increased and stronger precautionary measures have to be implemented," he said.

"Of course, compliance with war risk underwriters' recommendations, increasing security levels onboard and ensuring that each ship is provided and trained with the use of emergency procedures is a must."

But ship owners and crew can only take limited additional measures when faced with determined pirates with speedboats and grappling hooks.

"We don't want to arm our ship crew. It's very difficult. They are not soldiers or policemen who have experience with weapons. It's also difficult to equip a ship with weapons for customs reasons," Eichmann told Swiss radio. "For the moment we are discussing whether our ships should travel in convoy accompanied by military forces."


Growing flotilla


Naval forces are growing all the time in the region following the spate of attacks. There is already a small flotilla of warships in the region from countries including the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Turkey, Germany, Russia and India.

The military approach has had a certain degree of success. The warships have established a safe shipping lane and escort food aid ships into Somalia. The Royal Navy recently shot and killed two pirates and captured others. The French staged a daring capture of pirates who had taken over a yacht. India's navy said one of its warships had destroyed a pirate "mothership" in the Gulf of Aden in a brief battle on Tuesday. The European Union is about to launch its first naval action.

But some experts say international law, the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, today places limitations on daring military action.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on freezing assets and placing a travel ban on people supporting piracy.

But for private ship owners like Peter Zurcher, managing director of Nyon-based ABC Maritime AG, a military convoy is the only option.

"The ideal solution would be a government in Somalia but we've been waiting for that since 1991 so I don't expect that to happen very soon. The only solution I see is the EU proposal to have a fleet of survey or navy ships, but it also needs helicopters and planes as the area is becoming much bigger," he said.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to impose sanctions on pirates, arms smugglers, and perpetrators of instability in Somalia in a fresh attempt to help end lawlessness in the Horn of Africa nation.


Close to 12 per cent of global tanker voyages moving crude oil and petroleum products traverse the Gulf of Aden to and from the Suez Canal.

Norway's Frontline, one of the world's biggest oil tanker owners, said on Wednesday it was "definitely considering" instructing its fleet to avoid the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal because of piracy.

Europe's biggest ship owner, Maersk, also said it was on the brink of rerouting ships via the Cape of Good Hope.

The implications could be dramatic, both in terms of the resultant additional tonne-miles and increased transit times.

"All this is starting to have an impact on the market even if it's not that visible," said Gilles Rolland, who manages crude oil shipments for Riverlake Shipping in Geneva.

For Deslarzes the only way to get rid of the piracy problem along the Somalia coast is via concerted and organised international measures, which regrettably would probably have to include military action.

"Regular and increasing navy patrols in the area do have a positive impact in terms of prevention, but are certainly not sufficient to tackle the problem," he said.

"It's a highly political question," Eichmann said. "We all agree that something must be done, but it's not clear what exactly."

swissinfo, Simon Bradley in Geneva

Brokers braced for West Africa suezmax rates to ‘freefall’

Jamie Dale - Lloyd's List - Monday 17 November 2008

SUEZMAX rates in West Africa may go into “freefall” this week, a London broker warned, as the list of available tonnage comfortably outweighed the number of cargoes, writes Jamie Dale.

ICAP Shipping said in its daily report that freight rates for suezmaxes carrying crude from West Africa to the US Gulf would likely drop further this week.

The report said that quoted cargo to the US Gulf was attracting many offers. This would help charterers to push rates down as owners fight to find work.

On Friday rates had fallen to around W120, or $42,896 per day, down from W160 at the start of the week, according to an analyst at shipbroker Riverlake.

The Geneva-based analyst said that the average weekly rate for a voyage from West Africa to the US Gulf fell by 16% week-on-week to W144, or $55,060 per day.

RS Platou reported five suezmax fixtures on Friday for both single and double-hulled vessels. Vitol was the most active in this market, snapping up three of the five vessels, all for US Gulf discharges. Vitol had even fixed an unnamed Gemini tanker for a December 2 loading to carry crude from West Africa to the US Gulf at W130, W7.5 points less than its two November 11 loadings.

West African rates have now fallen W65 points since the start of the month due to a slowdown in US oil demand and production cuts in West Africa.

West African crude oil transported in suezmax tankers to the US fell by 10.2% in October, compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary data from Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit and Apex.

Nigerian National Petroleum said it would reduce November and December shipments by 5%, in line with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ 1.5m bpd production cut. It said it would cancel an additional five cargoes this month and 7.6 shipments next month.

The oil major Shell also said it would halt Nigerian crude shipments in November and December.

While crude oil prices continue to fall, Opec is expected to make further production cuts at its next meeting this month in order to control the price. Analysts have warned that the fourth quarter spike in tanker demand will be dampened and that rates would not meet owners’ expectations in 2009.

Activity was quiet in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The Riverlake analyst said that rates continued to fall, with owners fixing at around W140, or $63,110 per day.

The weekly average rate fell by 15% week-on-week to W153.5, or $72,513 per day, the analyst said.

In the Middle East Gulf, Indian Oil Corp fixed the double-sided, 152,412 dwt, 1988-built Southway to carry 130,000 tonnes of crude to the east coast of India at W95 for loading November 29.

Elsewhere, there was a small level of activity in the North Sea with Koch fixing the double-hulled 159,100 dwt, 2004-built Kaveri Spirit to carry 135,000 tonnes of crude to the US Gulf at W117.5 for loading November 11.

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