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Industry Opinions


Venezuelan Clean Product Taper
November 22, 2013
Following the death of Hugo Chavez in March of 2013, Nicolas Maduro took over as interim president of Venezuela. Maduro, Chavez’s hand-picked successor, narrowly won a general election several weeks later, with a hair thin 1.5% margin. Since then, Venezuela has experienced a period of hyper-inflation, military take overs of retail shops and widespread consumer goods shortages. This week, he was granted emergency decree powers, giving him dictatorial control over wide segments of the country and economy. The effects of state mismanagement have affected the state run oil company, PDVSA as well. The company has experienced an increasing number of production related issues, declining investment in refining projects and numerous refinery fires and outages. PDVSA sold a $4.5 billion dollar bond issuance last week, but will not be using any of the money to expand oil production capacity, but rather to service debt and provide hard currency for day-to-day operations.
An Unsanctioned Iran?
November 15, 2013
United States and European Union-led sanctions against Iran have significantly reduced Iranian crude oil exports since they were first introduced in 2010 and then substantially tightened in 2012. In 2005, Iranian production amounted to nearly 4 million bbls/day, today production stands at around 2.6 million bbls/day shown in the chart below. During the past two months, exports have reportedly dropped to 715,000 bbls/day down from 1.17 million bbls/day in September. In apparent attempts to rejuvenate trade opportunities Iranian leaders made recent overtures to the international community suggesting they would moderate their nuclear enrichment programs. The election of the politically moderate Hassan Rouhani could be seen as the first step of a change in course. This is a sharp contrast from the rhetoric seen in 2012 when the country repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane for Arabian Gulf exports. While the prospect of increased crude exports from the Arabian Gulf would seem like a net positive for VLCC demand, the impacts on the market are not that straight forward.
VLCC Rates Climb to Highest Levels in 2013
November 08, 2013
VLCC rates rose to $47,200/d (Worldscale 59) on November 8th for the benchmark Arabian Gulf to Far East voyage, the highest level since April 17th, 2012. Average rates for 2013 have been relatively low, but the late season spike this year has been more robust than any of the previous three years. Although a far cry from the earnings seen in the mid-2000s, the recent market improvements have spurred a renewed optimism among ship owners. The rate increase was higher this year due to two main considerations: ton mile demand growth due to continued strong demand from Far Eastern buyers, and a number of VLCCs being taken for niche cargoes in the Atlantic Basin.
Removal of Brazilian Subsidies to Back Out Clean Product Imports?
November 01, 2013
Brazilian transportation fuels subsidies have reduced costs for consumers, who have enjoyed longstanding market discount for gasoline and diesel. Currently the cost of the subsidy is borne by the state run oil company, Petrobras. As the cost of these imports is rising, the company is pushing for an end to price controls, a move which could reduce demand for clean product imports. Historically, until around 2010, Brazil faced a narrow gap between domestic demand and refining capacity, resulting in a modest amount of clean product exports. However, a trend of increasing miles driven per light duty vehicle has started rising quickly: 9,000 km/year in 2010, with forecasts of 13,000 km/year in 2015. The resulting increase in domestic demand was met by clean product imports, which peaked in 2011.
Caribbean Aframax Seasonal Hike Ahead?
October 24, 2013
Earnings for TD9 have been the highest average year to date, $12,700, since 2010 and compare very favorably to the 2011 average of $4,200. A rare Aframax summer surge was driven by delays at ports in the US Gulf and an increase in lightering work following the most recent Motiva outage in the mid-summer months. Owner resistance has been firm this year for earnings below $5,000/d or WS 80, helping maintain a floor for rates. Rates had approached that floor level very recently with several prompt ships in the region. But can owners look forward to the potential for a late season earnings jump?
Going GovernMental: EIA Closure and Reopening
October 18, 2013
Collecting oil inventories and trade flow data at a government agency is particularly challenging – especially when your agency has shut down. Although the United States government is now back in business, the closure left the financial oil trading community without its weekly benchmark – the Department of Energy’s inventory report. For these traders, correctly anticipating weekly movements in oil inventories can prove to be quite lucrative. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) within the Department of Energy (DOE) reports weekly data which is based on initial estimated volumes that are then revised over the subsequent two months. As such, the weekly benchmark tends to be more of a barometer of market sentiment rather than a reflection of physical reality.
Bunkers stable in 2013, ECA Changes ahead in 2015
October 10, 2013
Worldscale released their estimated bunker prices for 2014 this week. Over the past year prices have fallen from $686/t to $632/t for high sulphur and $779/t to $713/t for 1% low sulphur. Bunker prices have been highly volatile since 2009, when they rose from the mid $200/t range to the mid $600/t range by 2011 for high sulfur grades. In addition, during this time spreads ranged from $197/t in 2011 and $181/t in 2012 with a wide range of deviations from the average, making timing of purchases critical. However, in 2013 prices stopped their climb and have held near their year to date average of $607/t in the key bunkering ports of Rotterdam, Houston and Singapore. The steadying prices in 2013 have helped reduce the uncertainty in operating expenses for ship owners.
RSVP to the Pool Party
October 04, 2013

Depressed freight rate conditions in the early part of the last decade saw the creation of the first tanker pools. By consolidating assets and commercial operations, individual ship owners streamlined chartering functions, bunker purchases and other redundant efforts in order to reduce costs. By joining a tanker pool, small-fleeted shipowners were afforded participation in elusive chartering opportunities, such as coveted contracts of affreightment with large oil companies that were traditionally covered by larger competitors. Throughout the past decade, tanker pools have gained popularity across all tanker segments. The birth of new pools sparked competition as pool managers sought to attract new tonnage through unique commercial visions. Last week, Ocean Tankers announced its intended departure from Maersk’s Nova Tankers pool raising some questions about the popularity of tanker pool participation. With market fundamentals historically weak, shipowners and pool operators are now faced with a new set of factors influencing tanker pooling decisions.

Jones Act - Still the king of rates in 2016?
September 26, 2013
In today’s market Jones Act tankers command a significant premium as few ships are available in the face of overwhelming demand and tight supply. 34 MR’s and 42 coastal barges of 130,000bbls or larger represent the current US Jones Act Fleet. However, future supply may not be as tight as many orders have been hitting US shipyards. There are at least 10 medium range tankers on order, two large ATBs, and the possibility of an additional five to eight tankers to be built at Avondale. These orders will represent a sizable addition to the US flag tanker fleet over the next three to four years, which will help increase the liquidity in both the spot and relet markets.
USAC-Born Exports reaching new heights
September 19, 2013
A recent uptick on the US Atlantic coast refinery usage has led to an increase in cargoes loading out of the region. Owners discharging gasoline from Europe or Caribbean Jet fuel would historically ballast back to Europe, or sought a backhaul cargo out of the US Gulf. But as US domestic crude production continues to disrupt clean product trades, a new trend is emerging; an increase in exports from the US Atlantic coast. The US Atlantic coast remains a niche export market, with a nominal refinery capacity of around 900,000 bl/d vs 9.2 mn bl/d in PADD 3. But even with this modest capacity, a good month can see ten additional cargoes loading from the region during the early spring to late summer. In May and June of 2013 a total of 50 cargoes loaded in this two month period, verses 26 cargoes during the same period in 2012.
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