VLCC owners are making the most of a tanker sale window that opened following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, with brokers and online ship data platforms reporting yet another fresh batch of sales.

In the few cases where buyers are identified, the names are familiar — recently registered companies that have blossomed in just a few months out of jurisdictions unencumbered by Western oil sanctions against Russia.

One of them is Gardsea Shipping, an entity that the S&P Global Market platform links to India’s Gatik Ship Management.

S&P Global Market shows Gardsea as the new manager of the 318,100-dwt Poros (built 2008), a vessel that an Athens broker reports sold for $66m.

VesselsValue shows the Chinese-built tanker as trading under the new name of Onrim.

Executives at Aeolos Management, the Embiricos-family company listed as the ship’s previous manager, did not respond to a request for comment.

The incentive to divest the vessel is certainly there.

The Poros is due to pass its special survey at the end of the year. More importantly, the Embiricos family — one of the best asset players in the business — acquired the ship at the end of 2020 for just about $29.5m, from the liquidators of Xihe Holdings’ tanker fleet.

Aeolos is believed to have pulled off a similarly successful asset play last month, with the scrubber-fitted 298,500-dwt Syfnos (built 2006).

The reported $66m sale price of the Poros, however, should be taken with a pinch of salt. It comes from a single broker, and Signal Ocean and VesselsValue estimate the ship is worth a far lower $56m.

On the other hand, it is not the first time in recent weeks that a tanker is reported sold at a surprisingly high price.

Rush for tonnage

Tanker sale-and-purchase markets, never a paragon of transparency, became even more opaque after a flurry of Asian buyers engaged in a race for older tonnage during the Ukraine war.

Gatik, or clients thereof, has been among the busiest.

Founded in March, the Indian tanker operator manages a fleet of more than 20 crude and product tankers — eight of which it assembled in December alone, according to the Equasis database.

The Mumbai-based company likes using the flags of St Kitts & Nevis or Gabon.

Intriguingly, the Poros is the first VLCC that the S&P Global Market database links to either Gardsea or Gatik.

This is another indication of a resurgence in secondhand VLCC activity lately.

In other reported VLCC deals this week, Singapore-based interests are said to be disposing of the 298,900-dwt Arcadia V (built 2000) for $40m.

The 320,800-dwt Maran Aquarius (built 2005), a scrubber-fitted vessel once again reported sold at the end of September for about $52.5m, is now said by brokers to be changing hands again, to undisclosed buyers at a similar price.

Analysts have said that demand for storage — for which VLCCs are frequently used — has increased since Russia said in late December that it would stop on 1 February selling crude to countries complying with a Western price cap on Russian oil.

Another reason for increased storage demand could be underpinned by expectations that oil prices will increase amid China’s post-Covid economic recovery.