Columbia Group pools player United Product Tankers (UPT) believes it can continue to capitalise as Russia’s war in Ukraine reshapes the map for tanker voyages.

And the company is bullish on the prospects for clean carriers despite recent pressure on rates.

The Schoeller Holdings company’s co-managing director Matthias Schoeller told TradeWinds: “At the moment we’re going through a bit of a slower period. In general, this year has been more volatile than 2022, which was expected.

“Demand is a bit softer due to various reasons, especially the fact that people are a bit uncertain where the world is heading,” he added.

Schoeller pointed to question marks over GDP growth in the Western world, and the fact the Chinese recovery has not been as strong as expected or hoped for post-Covid.

But he said: “The fundamentals are still there — the supply side is very favourable, the tonne-mile demand is estimated to increase substantially especially in the products space.”

Schoeller added: “How long this slower period will last, let’s see. When we talk to other market participants, the general bullish sentiment for the second half has not really changed, we would agree on that.”

The company’s other managing director, Christos Matarangas, said UPT used to have smaller ships, with handysize tankers very active in the Black Sea and Baltic.

“Many, including ourselves, are not willing to trade to Russian ports anymore, meaning that we have had fundamental changes in trading patterns in this sector,” he added.

But other European short-haul trades have developed on the back of this, creating a new, very dynamic marketplace, the managing director said.

The same is true for the large product tankers trading from the Middle East and India, where big volumes are heading to Europe to replace Russian supplies.

Manageable risk

Schoeller believes the changes have been bigger in Northern Europe, where there are fewer alternative markets than in the Mediterranean.

There has obviously also been a higher need for compliance.

“You have to be careful about the business you do, especially with regards to ship-to-ship transfers,” he said.

UPT has a rigorous programme for screening counterparties and cargo origins.

“Whenever it’s doubtful, it’s better to stay away from it. To us it’s a manageable risk,” Schoeller added.