VLCCs took a slight dip on Friday, but the general trend line remains upward.

The largest tankers have gained nearly $9,000 since 22 June and just over $12,100 from all-time lows on 31 May to finish at -$22,707 per day on Friday according to the Baltic Exchange's time charter equivalent assessment.

Shipbroker Howe Robinson described back-to-back busy weeks to help the ailing crude oil tankers.

“With a bit of the heat we have seen generated in the market this week it is not surprising to see a quiet Friday,” the broker said.

“Charterers seem happy to take a breather and let things cool down a bit. With holidays in the US on Monday, maybe we will have to wait before we see [the] ‘play’ button pressed again.”

Data from Tankers International shows a slew of loss-making VLCC fixtures this week, but the last two, both from Thursday, were estimated to be in the money.

Capital Ship Management's 299,999-dwt Atromitos (built 2016) was fixed to ExxonMobil at $38,755 per day for a voyage from the US Gulf to Singapore in late July.

The 307,894-dwt Landbridge Wisdom (built 2020) was chartered to Sinochem at $31,514 per day for a voyage from West Africa to China in early August.

The ship is listed in the fleet of SFL Corp.

Tankers International estimated both charters would be profitable for the ships’ owners.

In its weekly note, the Baltic Exchange said VLCCs out of the Middle East Gulf had improved, with ships headed to the US Gulf and China both rising, with the China route adding $10,600 per day over the course of the week.

The West Africa to China route added $8,200 per day, while the US Gulf to China voyage held steady at $15,900 per day.

VLCCs have been struggling for more than a year, hampered first by Covid-19 and the unwinding of floating storage and more recently by pandemic lockdown measures in China.

Reportedly the lockdowns are easing, leading many to expect an improvement in rates as the year goes on.

The Baltic Exchange’s VLCC time charter equivalent rates first slipped below zero in mid-January 2021 and have not been above zero since.

Some in the market have argued that the Baltic Exchange assessments distort how bad the market is, with owners of more modern tonnage reporting fixtures closer to breakeven levels.

According to Howe Robinson, eco ships on the three VLCC routes it follows — the Middle East Gulf, West Africa and the US Gulf to China — were all in positive territory on Friday, with a ship sailing from Texas to China earning the most at $10,520 per day.

Non-eco ships on all three routes were earning negative rates, it said.