Russia’s war turns fuel tankers into hot property

Synopsis

Trade curbs on Moscow have upended fuel flows, locking up more ships on long-haul routes, while others handle Russian shipments.

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In all, 184 clean tankers worth $3.79 billion were sold in the seven months to July, according to VesselsValue data.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has supercharged one segment of the shipping market, with soaring freight rates prompting companies to rush to purchase rather than rent vessels.

Trade curbs on Moscow have upended fuel flows, locking up more ships on long-haul routes, while others handle Russian shipments. That’s tightened tanker supply, lifting freight costs and setting off a scramble for used vessels, with the price of so-called clean tankers jumping as much as 60% this year, according to VesselsValue.

Commodity markets, and the shipping trade that’s vital for transporting materials around the globe, have been upended Europe’s worst military crisis since World War II. While freight rates have recently eased from their highs, ship owners are still likely to fetch healthy earnings for the rest of the year, according to Anoop Singh, head of tanker research at Braemar ACM Shipbroking.

389691192Bloomberg

With demand outstripping availability, buyers have been willing to bid significantly higher, shipbrokers told Bloomberg. Given a new tanker takes up to three years to order, companies hoping to cash in on the rally are mostly limited to existing vessels, they said.

In all, 184 clean tankers worth $3.79 billion were sold in the seven months to July, according to VesselsValue data. That’s the highest value and number of transactions in at least five years.

Among recent deals, a 14-year-old, Korean-built medium-range tanker changed hands for $19.3 million last week, according to shipbrokers who asked not to be identified. That’s about $5 million more than the price of a similar vessel sold in April.

A six-year-old tanker, Largo Sun, sold for $35 million this month, according to Olivia Watkins, head cargo analyst at VesselsValue, who said product tankers were the most-traded ships in July. Prices for vessels of about that age have risen by more than 20%.

The average value of a 15-year-old long-range tanker — a commonly traded age for a second-hand vessel — surged nearly 60% this year, while that of a similarly aged medium-range tanker gained more than 40%, according to the company’s data.

Fuel tanker rates have surged as Western buyers sought alternatives to Russian products, taking cargoes from more-distant markets. That’s meant longer voyages, tying up vessel availability.

“Demand may not have to do too much for healthy rates to sustain for a long period,” said Braemar’s Singh. Earnings are likely to remain healthy for most shipping firms this half, he said.

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