OPEC estimated spot fixtures decreased by 20% in April to average 9.51 mb/d, while global spot fixtures fell by 19% to average 16.6 mb/d. The decrease in OPEC fixtures came after a significant recovery in the first quarter of 2012, resulting in the volatility in spot fixtures. Middle East-to-East fixtures declined by 24% in April from the previous month, to average 5.34 mb/d. This decline came partly from lower fixtures ahead of planned refinery maintenance in the East. Middle East to-West fixtures increased by 3.4% in April to average 1.47 mb/d. Preliminary estimates show that OPEC sailings rose by 4% in April to average 24.19 mb/d. This reported increase was supported by sailings to Eastern destinations from the Middle East and West Africa. On an annual basis, OPEC sailings increased by 6% in April.
North American arrivals increased by 5% in April to average 8.91 mb/d, as refineries prepared for the summer driving season, according to preliminary estimated data. European and Far Eastern arrivals increased by 1% and 4% respectively in April, while West Asian arrivals decreased by 6%. April saw average spot freight rates for VLCCs continue their positive momentum and increase by 8% from March. Rates for operations on the Middle East-to-East route gained 8% from a month ago and they rose by 13% on the Middle East-to-West route. Higher tonnage requirements ahead of seasonal refining maintenance in Asia, especially in China, supported the gains in VLCC rates both East and West of Suez. And reports of an increased use of tankers as floating storage provided further support. Rates for VLCCs operating on the West Africa-to-East route gained 5% last month. Compared with a year ago, average VLCC spot freight rates increased by 20% in April. Suezmax maverage spot freight rates declined in April by 11% from the previous month. Rates for operations on the Northwest Europe-to-US route remained relatively flat, while those on the West Africa-to-US route fell by a heavy 19%. Tonnage availability and refinery maintenance on both sides of the Atlantic put pressure on rates during the month.
Average Aframax spot freight rates declined by 10% in April from March, mainly on increased tonnage availability. On the Mediterranean-to-Mediterranean and Mediterranean-to-Northwest Europe routes, these rates dropped by 13% and 12% respectively. High tonnage availability put pressure on rates across the Atlantic during the month. Rates for tankers operating on the Caribbean-to-US route fell by 10%. East of Suez, rates for tankers operating on the Indonesia-to East route declined by 3% in April, mainly on lower tonnage demand due to refinery maintenance and increased tonnage availability. East of Suez, clean spot freight rates rose by 11% in April, while West-of-Suez rates fell by 8%. East of Suez, improved naphtha and product trade activity supported clean spot freight rates, which increased on the Middle East-to-East and Singapore-to East routes by 19% and 5% respectively during the month. West of Suez, clean spot freight rates on the Caribbean-to-US route declined by 12% in April. This decline was due to pressure from lower tonnage demand on refinery maintenance. On the Northwest Europe-to-US, Mediterranean-to-Mediterranean and Mediterranean-to-Northwest Europe routes, rates fell by 9%, 5% and 5% respectively during the month. The declines came partly from refinery maintenance and closed transatlantic arbitrage.