Spot charter rates for LNG carriers have cooled after several weeks at exceptionally high levels in a market where open tonnage was hard to find but sentiment for period business is holding firm.

Modern two-stroke vessels are still commanding rates of more than $200,000 per day across all basins but this is a drop of over $100,000 per day from levels being paid out last month and at the start of December.

Brokers pointed to the Cheniere Energy relet, TMS Cardiff Gas' 174,000-cbm newbuilding Cobia LNG, which was reported fixed to China National Offshore Oil Corp at a rate in the low $200,000-per-day range.

They said rates for tri-fuel diesel-electric (TFDE) ships no longer start with a "two" but remain at healthy six-figure levels above $150,000 per day.

Steam-turbine tonnage is also continuing to earn strong levels, although ships in the Pacific and Middle East are commanding higher rates than those in the Atlantic basin where spot figures dipped below $100,000 per day.

Brokers reported that Equinor has fixed the 142,900-cbm Arctic Voyager (built 2006) to Japanese trader Sumitomo at $158,000 per day.

Trading swing

They blamed the drop in cargo trading from West to East as LNG prices level up between the two basins, albeit at high levels.

While spot rates slide from what have been historically high levels, brokers said the outlook for period business remains strong, with charterers now starting to turn their attention to the cargoes they need to cover in 2022.

One noted that Stena had fixed its TFDE vessel, the 173,600-cbm Stena Crystal Sky (built 2011) to China's ENN for a period of 10 years. A rate has yet to emerge.

Clarksons quoted one-year assessment for ME-GI, two-stroke ships as falling $5,000 week on week to $115,000 per day, with TFDEs holding at daily levels of about $90,000.

Rates for three-year time charters are below the $100,000-per-day mark across all tonnage types with modern vessels commanding levels in the high $70,000s to mid-$90,000-per-day range, depending on the period.

Open for business

More LNG carriers were being touted as open on the market on a prompt basis for both spot and term business.

Sinokor Merchant Marine's 138,000-cbm steamship Merchant (built 2003), seen here at the centre of a Greenpeace protest, is among those vessels being offered for charter. Photo: Greenpeace

Position lists show more than 20 vessels as being potentially available in the Pacific basin region, with at least two on offer in the Middle East region.

These included JP Morgan's first LNG carrier newbuilding, the 174,000-cbm Orion Sea.

The vessel is being offered warm on an ex-yard basis as a relet by its charterer New Fortress Energy from early January on a spot basis or for a period of up to six months, with one note indicating a discount could be negotiated for its maiden voyage.

At the other end of the spectrum, Sinokor Merchant Marine's 138,000-cbm steam-turbine LNG carrier Merchant (built 2003) was being offered on a prompt basis for up to 60 days, with an indication that it could be fixed at "below market levels".

Brokers reported something of a stand-off situation in play at the close of last week as owners and charterers waited to see where spot charter rates would settle for the next fixtures.