A combination of market gloom and empty desks due to the Posidonia gathering in Greece has combined to clobber VLCC rates, broker Gibsons believes.

Spot levels “have plummeted towards yearly lows as the lack of activity combined with the conference in Athens brought about a pessimistic mood”, it said.

There was further bearish sentiment as Opec+ maintained crude output cuts.

“We could be some way off a rebound, although we might be close to the bottom of this current downturn,” the London shop said.

The Baltic Exchange assessed VLCC spot rates from the Middle East Gulf to China at $31,600 per day on Friday, down 10% over the week and 30% in a month.

In West Africa, VLCC enquiry levels remained very low and freight levels have been following other areas as ships that began the ballast westwards struggle to find employment, with sentiment weakening by the day, according to the UK broker.

“We may see some recovery … as charterers move to cover early July stems, but they look to have the upper hand with a healthy choice of tonnage availability,” it added.

Suezmax inquiry remained steady in the Middle East, as charterers sought ships to take fuel oil west of Suez.

The tonnage list looks set to open up this week, however, with charterers surely looking to test owners’ resolve on rates, Gibsons argues.

“There is no denying that the disruptions of Posidonia were felt this year for the Mediterranean aframax market, with the first half of the week showing little opportunity for owners to get their teeth into,” it said.

Activity picked up

“Once offices across the shipping community looked a little more populated, activity did start to pick up; however, sentiment had shifted noticeably with fixing levels dropping off, which in turn has undone a lot of owners’ recent achievements.”

On the product tanker side, Clarksons Securities said that after a recent surge in MR rates in the Atlantic, rates quickly declined, with average eco-ship earnings now at $40,600 per day, a 20% decrease over seven days.

LR rates, which did not experience the same spike, have continued to soften gradually, it added.