The product tanker market is only getting stronger and stronger, owners say.
Ardmore Shipping chief executive Anthony Gurnee said he has fixed ships at $100,000 per day during the second quarter in a “spiky, buoyant market”, while Scorpio Tankers’ Robert Bugbee said much of the market has no idea how good things are.
“In terms of rate levels, they are extraordinary,” Gurnee said during a panel at the Marine Money Week conference in New York on Wednesday.
Six-figure charters would be a huge leap for the Ireland-based shipowner.
When it reported first-quarter earnings in early May, the company said it had been chartering its fleet at an average of $25,000 per day, with 50% of days fixed.
The average day rate strengthened to $34,400 per day, it said, in the weeks leading up to the earnings release.
Bugbee said owners have increasing power in the stronger market, thanks to low oil and product inventories worldwide.
“Their usual tricks of, ‘Look the market’s heated up too much this week, we’re not going to fix ships ... and come back in a few days’ time’” are not working any more,” he said.
“The owners can sit back and say, ‘Fine, but the ship will be fixed by someone tomorrow’.”
Bugbee said charterer behaviour suggests the stronger market has legs.
“You don’t have to believe me and you don’t have to believe anyone on this panel ... the charter rates have ripped up in the last four months,” he said.
“We’ve moved from six-month charters in the low, mid-teens to three-year charters for MRs at around $23,000 per day. You’ve got $30,000 per day in the LR2s.
“By the end of next week, I’m sure we’ll see five-year charters. The charterers are saying it’s going to be sustained.”
Since owners are privy to sale-and-purchase and charter negotiations, they are better positioned than analysts to say how good the market is, according to Bugbee.
“They have no clue how good the spot market is right now or how strong it’s been the last three weeks,” he said.
On 8 June, Scorpio Tankers published updated rate data for its fleet, with its LR2s earning an average of $35,000 per day with 85% of days booked, versus an average of $24,000 per day when forward bookings were announced alongside first-quarter results on 28 April.
Its MRs had risen to $34,000 per day with 85% of days booked, up from $30,000 per day in late April, while handymaxes hit an average of $35,000 per day versus $30,000 per day.