In addition, trade routes and the destination of cargoes are becoming increasingly uncertain, particularly from the new US projects. LNG participants will require sufficient shipping capacity to ensure cargo liftings, while being able to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities as they arise. The key requirement of buyers around the world, particularly those in the high-growth Asian markets, has become destination flexibility.Also, a growing number of legacy LNG sales agreements and the associated shipping between long-established producers and their buyers are approaching maturity. As this LNG is recontracted, a shift seems likely towards more modern, efficient tonnage and the continuing retirement of older, steam-propelled vessels. Lastly, seasonality may become more pronounced, as we are now experiencing in China, leading to higher winter LNG import demand. In the final quarter of 2017, China imported about 13 million tonnes, a 55% increase over the same period in 2016. This was the result of an aggressive drive by the government to replace coal with natural gas for winter heating in the residential and commercial sectors to improve air quality in the north. Until China develops its infrastructure, particularly for LNG and natural-gas storage, this seasonal call for LNG will probably continue unabated. As a result, charterers might be persuaded to commit to a vessel for longer periods rather than depend on its availability in the winter spot market. In conclusion, average annual charter rates, especially for the most fuel-efficient ships, are likely to increase significantly. Hopefully, the several uncommitted newbuildings entering the marketplace this year, and the continued availability of steam vessels, will not cause rates to rise to extremes. Otherwise, the consequence will be the ordering of more ships, probably ensuring that the much-improved market is short lived. This article was originally published on TradeWinds. Click here to read it from the original source.