By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Mar. 7�Oil tankers are experiencing a record year, reports Clarkson Research Studies, London.
In a recent report, it said earnings for oil tankers have doubled and last summer tanker rates hit levels not seen for 30 years.
Clarkson said, �We are cautiously optimistic. So far tanker investment has been restrained and the order book is lower than it was 18 months ago. We think the fundamentals are strong enough to carry the market through another good year, particularly if owners continue to play the game well.�
It said 1999 was a poor year for tanker markets as crude exports fell with production cuts, but the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has increased output in an attempt to curb rising prices.
The report said further increases in production may have the effect of lowering prices and boosting oil demand growth that has been restrained by high prices.
Clarkson said the increase in long haul exports is reflected in spot fixture data. It said very large crude carrier spot fixtures rose 15% in 2000 while ultra large crude carrier spot fixtures rose 5%.
�VLCC demand from the Far East appears to be particularly strong. In addition, the US has been importing increased amounts of crude from West Africa.
�The overall outlook for tanker demand remains positive. Global economic growth is expected to slow slightly in 2001 but nonetheless remain strong. Oil demand is expected to increase by 2.4% and there appears to be ample supply as producers continue to increase output as the prices of the benchmark crudes have remained above 30/bbl.�
Clarkson said as of last fall, the tanker fleet had 290.4 million dwt, of which 1.7 million was laid up and 5.4 million was in storage.
It said although many ships were delivered last year, the order book increased to 46.7 million dwt, or 16% of the fleet, by the end of the year. It explained the strong market and the elderly age of the VLCC and Suezmax fleets (in both sectors 31% of the vessels were 30 years or older) has led to heavy ordering.