Tanker Demand at Five-Year High on Surging U.S.-LatAm Product Exports
Rising exports of refined products to Latin America from the U.S. is helping boost global demand for product tankers to the highest since 2010, at the same time as the size of the world fleet swells by the most in six years, according to Clarksons, the world's biggest shipbroker. There are already 2,600 product tankers on the water, with the fleet projected to grow by 4.2% in 2015 over the prior year to reach a record 26.7 million
deadweight tons, the shipbroker said in its monthly Oil & Tanker Trades Outlook, published this week.
Expectations of firm products trade out of the U.S. to Latin America, as well as refinery closures in Europe and rising cargoes shipped to Australia, is expected to support the nearly 1,700 smaller, Handysize and Medium Range tankers, which each ship between 20,000- to 40,000-ton cargoes.
Product trade growth to Latin America and the Caribbean is seen in analysis of U.S. exports of distillates of 15 ppm or under. Volumes exported to Latin America and the Caribbean rose by 16% in 2014 year on year to a record 580,000 b/d, according to information compiled by OPIS from Energy Information Administration data.
Shipments of 15 ppm or under distillates to the region have more than doubled since 2011, with 65% of all exports of this category now going to Latin America and the Caribbean, compared to 51% back in 2011, data shows. The highest demand category for product tankers this year will be for the 325 Long Range 1 or so-called coated Aframax tankers, according to Clarkson. These larger product tankers are now used more frequently to ship 60,000-ton diesel cargoes to Europe from the U.S, rather than the normal 38,000-ton parcels.
Demand for LR1s is forecast to swell 4.9%, closely followed by a 4.8% rise for Long Range 2 tankers, which carry 90,000 tons. "Longer-haul products trades from refinery hubs in the Middle East Gulf and India to the Far East is likely to support demand," the report said. However the LR2 fleet is expected to expand by 11.7%, surpassing demand, and adding supply pressures, according to Clarksons.