A surge in crude tanker vessel capacity over the next two years will lead to a fall in ship-owner earnings from current highs, according to the latest edition of the Tanker Forecaster, published by global shipping consultancy Drewry.
Rising capacity is being driven by anticipated tonnage demand growth in the dirty tanker market, which is expected to gather momentum once US shale oil production starts shrinking. Similarly, tonnage demand in the product tanker market has been increasing with the expansion of refinery capacity in Asia and the Middle East.
One of the primary reasons behind the recent surge in tanker freight rates, particularly in the dirty tanker market, has been sluggish fleet growth over the last two years. However, as the fleet is likely to expand rapidly in the next two years, the ongoing firmness in rates may prove short-lived.
“Drewry expects annual growth in the crude tanker fleet to accelerate from 0.7% in 2014 to around 5% over the next two years, to reach 377 million dwt by the end of 2017,” said Rajesh Verma, Drewry’s lead analyst for tanker shipping. “However, this growth is expected to recede thereafter, assuming vessel ordering remains controlled.”
Attractive freight rates and a growing trade on long haul routes resulted in hefty ordering in the large vessel segments, especially since the second half of 2014. “A total of 42 million dwt of capacity has been ordered since 2014, which compares with just 25 million dwt in 2012-13, when a bearish freight market and tight credit availability checked ordering,” added Verma.
A surge in US shale oil production had held back growth in the global seaborne crude trade. But the recent collapse in oil prices has checked domestic shale output and increased worldwide stocking activity, so boosting demand for crude tanker tonnage. Drewry expects the global oil trade to strengthen further, fuelled by rising US crude imports and an increase in Asian refining capacity.
“Lower bunker prices continue to support vessel earnings and increased ordering of large vessels reflect optimism in the market,” added Verma. “So long as ship-owners abstain from excessive ordering in the coming years, we can expect fleet growth to slow after 2017, which in combination with the prospective increase in global oil trade will lead to some longer term recovery in crude tanker earnings.”