Shipowners’ organisation Bimco believes a recovery in jet fuel volumes could be ideal for the product tanker sector as tonne-mile figures start to drop.

Chief shipping analyst Niels Rasmussen said an upturn in aviation fuel shipments would be welcomed by many owners.

Product tanker distance figures have been on the slide since mid-April in Europe, he said.

In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, jet fuel contributed an estimated 8% of oil product cargo demand, Rasmussen calculated.

When travel restrictions were imposed, air travel suffered significantly and jet fuel shipments in 2021 were down 33% compared with 2019.

Airlines’ capacity has been on a slow recovery path since bottoming out in April 2020 but remains much lower than 2019 levels, the analyst said.

“In February 2022, global available seat-kilometres [ASK] increased 68% year on year, but remained 37% lower than in February 2019,” he added.

“Despite air cargo freight tonne-kilometres being 8.1% up on 2019, jet fuel demand remained low.”

February’s ASK figures were less than in 2019 across all regions, but North America, Asia and Australasia stand out for different reasons, Rasmussen said.

North American availability recovered the most and was down only 14%.

But Asia and Australasia were the worst-performing regions, as ASK stayed 53% lower than three years earlier.

The International Civil Aviation Organization estimated that global ASK in March would end 35% lower than 2019.

But since then, the extended lockdowns across China will not have helped.

Rasmussen said: “Many product tanker owners have probably not yet paid much attention to the missing jet fuel volumes, as freight rates have jumped since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Still, a recovery in jet fuel volumes would no doubt be welcome in trades into, for example, Europe, where tonne-miles demand appears to have been sliding downwards since mid-April.”