Tanker demand to remain flat, says analyst

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 16 -- Demand for tankers is unlikely to see any increase in 2009 despite apparently firming demand during the fourth quarter of 2008, according to marine transport advisors, McQuilling Services.

According to the analyst, the forecast is based on two main components that drive tanker demand: tons and miles.

In terms of tons, McQuilling cites the International Energy Agency which revised downward its demand forecast for 2009 over 2008 by 1.1% to 84.7 million b/d.

As a result, McQuilling does not foresee any increase in the volume of oil movements on tankers in 2009.

Although the mileage component of the equation may soon vary, the analyst said it does not expect "any oscillations large enough to offset the projected drop in cargo volumes."

McQuilling noted the change from fourth-quarter 2008, which showed firming demand "while every other economic or market indicator was pointing downwards."

It explained the firming demand as contributed to by the annual dirty Aframax demand increase of 7.1% year-on-year, while dirty Panamax demand also increased by 7% during the same period of time.

However, the very large crude carrier (VLCC) demand, whose share of the overall dirty tanker demand is about 65%, dropped by 2% year-on-year while the Suezmax demand growth remained relatively flat.

McQuilling said most of the increase in the Aframax sector was due to strengthening Mediterranean and Middle Eastern exports, while the Panamax demand growth may be attributed to the growth in both Mediterranean exports and the Americas trades.

"The VLCC drop came as a result of decreased West African exports on this vessel size that were poached by the Suezmax sector that was again balanced by a drop in the Mediterranean and the North Sea loadings," the analyst said.

"This caused the overall 2008 growth, as compared to 2007, to be rather flat (-0.04%)," it said.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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