In September, tanker spot freight rates for dirty and clean vessels generally saw improved sentiment across
all classes trading on various routes.
The upward momentum varied, with VLCC rates remaining on average unchanged, while Suezmax and
Aframax freight rates rose, supported by increased tonnage demand, tighter vessel availability and greater
activity in the Mediterranean, as well as to some extent disruption in the vessel programme caused
hurricanes in the US. In the dirty segment, VLCC rates were broadly unchanged, while Suezmax and
Aframax spot freight rates increased by 6%, and 38%, respectively, over the previous month.
Clean tanker freight rates showed positive developments in September, with those West of Suez increasing
by 38%, while East of Suez rates rose by 16% from one month ago. Steady tonnage requirements,
combined with occasional tightening vessel supply, supported product tanker freight rates on several trading routes.
In September, OPEC spot fixtures rose by 0.8% from the previous month to average 11.94 mb/d, according
to preliminary data. The increase came on the back of higher spot fixtures on the Middle East-to-East and
Outside Middle East route which averaged 5.85 mb/d and 3.94 mb/d, respectively, in September. On the
other hand, fixtures on the Middle East-to-West route were down by 0.27 mb/d in September to average
Sailings and arrivals
OPEC sailings inched down by 0.04 mb/d, or 0.2%, in September to stand at 23.96 mb/d. Middle East
sailings increased marginally, rising by 0.04 mb/d over the previous month, to average 17.26 mb/d.
Crude oil arrivals dropped in September at all ports. European, West Asian, North American and
Far Eastern ports showed a drop of 0.4%, 0.8%, 0.9% and 2.5%, respectively, from the previous month.
Among dirty tankers, the VLCC chartering market saw higher activity in September, mainly in the Middle
East, where tonnage demand increased sharply at the beginning of the month from recent levels.
Nevertheless, freight rate improvements were minor as tonnage availability remains, allowing charterers to
maintain an upper hand in the market, despite owners’ constant resistance to low rates. These remained
generally depressed in the absence of major delays or weather disruptions.
On average, VLCC spot freight rates rose only by WS1 point in September compared with a month before to
stand at WS39 points. VLCC Middle East-to-East spot freight rates rose by 4% in September to stand at
WS44 points. Similarly, spot freight rates registered for tankers trading on the West Africa-to-East route rose
by 4% to average WS51 points, as the tanker market in West Africa followed the movement of the
Middle East market. However, VLCC spot freight rates on the Middle East-to-West route showed a drop from
one month before, primarily due to insufficient tonnage demand, falling by WS1 point to stand at
Suezmax spot freight rates showed slightly larger gains than in the VLCC sector, with a rise of 6% on
average in September compared with the previous month, to stand at WS62 points. Suezmax freight rates
increased on the back of sudden replacement, as the class was taken as an alternative to Aframax at the
beginning of the month after Hurricane Harvey disrupted the vessel programme. Rates in the Atlantic
increased further as Hurricane Irma approached, causing freight rates registered for tankers operating on the
West Africa-to-US Gulf route to increase by 11% from the month before to WS68 points.
The Mediterranean market saw a relative increase in chartering activities, which limited growth in freight
rates. Suezmax availability in several regions remained more than sufficient to keep rates depressed,
consequentially spot freight rates on the Northwest Europe-to-US Gulf route ended the month almost flat to
stand at WS56 points.
Aframax spot freight rates showed the highest gains among vessel sizes in the dirty tanker sector, climbing
on all reported routes and showing notable average gains from the previous month. Aframax spot rates in the
Mediterranean rose as a result of higher activity. Spot freight rates on the Mediterranean-to-Mediterranean
and Mediterranean-to-Northwest Europe routes were the main contributors to average rate increases, as
both routes reflected higher rates by 38% and 46%, respectively, from the previous month to stand at
WS107 points and WS105 points. Aframax rates in the North Sea and the Baltic also increased, supported
by delays caused by severe weather conditions.
In the Caribbean, rates rose as uncertainty concerning vessel schedules provided support to freight rates at
certain points, however, rates later retreated while the market stabilised. On average, Caribbean-to-US East
Coast (USEC) spot freight rates showed growth of 44%, standing at WS144 points compared with a month
earlier. Aframax freight rates on the Indonesia-to-East route rose by 25% from the previous month, averaging
Clean tanker freight rates
Clean tanker market sentiment developed positively in September. On average, spot freight rates for vessels
trading on East of Suez routes rose by 17% from the previous month and by 28% in the West of Suez.
September was an eventful month for clean tankers. Rates were stimulated by higher tonnage demand for
medium-range (MR) tankers in East of Suez, which increased steadily on all major trading routes. Average
spot freight rates for tankers operating on the Middle East-to-East and Singapore-to-East routes rose by
WS12 point and WS36 points, respectively, from the previous month. A firmer tanker market was also seen
in the market West of Suez. MR tankers trading on the West of Suez route achieved higher freight rates
along several major routes.
In the Mediterranean, freight rates increased remarkably as the market balanced and tonnage demand was
steady. Moreover, occasional tight vessel availability – driven by an active Black Sea market – provided
further support to rates. Thus, spot freight rates for tankers operating on the Mediterranean-to-Mediterranean
and Mediterranean-to-Northwest Europe routes increased by 39% and 37%, respectively, in September to
stand at WS165 points and WS174 points, respectively.
Clean spot freight rates on the Northwest Europe-to-US East Coast (USEC) route increased by WS9 points
to stand at WS134 points. Rates in the Caribbean fluctuated as they started higher at the beginning of the
month before the hurricane effect subsided. Open supply for vessels grew and all prompt requirements were
met easily, thus pushing rates down closer to pre-hurricane levels.