Tanker Market: Shifting Trade Patterns Here to Stay

Tanker owners aren’t strangers to constantly shifting trade patterns. This seems to be the case this year as well, as industry insiders are noting. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Allied Shipbroking said that “it seems as though the future of the oil trade was once again put into the spotlight, as the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference took place last week in Singapore. Being arguably one of the industry’s largest gatherings of traders and oil executives, many were anticipating a highly optimistic environment to be seen in the different discussions, as crude oil prices reached their highest level in two years on the very opening day of the conference. Many would agree that crude oil demand is steaming ahead at a rate much higher then what we have seen during the past two years, while with all this fresh demand, the excess supply glut that has overshadowed the market seems to be gradually dealt with”.

According to Mr. George Lazaridis, Head of Market Research & Asset Valuations, with Allied Shipbroking, “there were however those that still voiced concern, as to the long-term prospects of the industry, given that OECD countries seem to have already gone through their peak demand levels, while focus is constantly put towards a move away from energy sourced by fossil fuels and higher efficiency in energy consumption”.

He added that “the main highlight however had more to do with the potential shifts in trade patterns, with the focus of the discussions being placed on the future of Chinese independent refineries. China has already taken center stage in the crude oil market, having overtaken the U.S. as the world’s top crude oil importer. Its importance has been continually highlighted by the support and boost its import volumes have given the freight market of crude oil tankers, while it still holds the largest potential source for growth in demand, still playing a catch-up game with the West in terms of oil consumption per capita. At the same time, private refineries in China, often referred to as “teapot refiners”, have performed well, with their production levels having gradually intensified and now account for around a quarter of China’s total refining capacity. This has been despite the intense competition from the state-owned behemoths and the great challenges they have faced in terms of infrastructure issues, intense oversight by the government and limitations in the granting of fuel export licenses. Most of these refineries operate in Shandong province and have relatively small refining capacity”, said Lazaridis.

According to Allied’s analyst, “this stellar performance has been the main driver in the renewed efforts being placed by private investors for a considerable expansion in the countries private refining capacity through the construction of a new generation of plants in Zhejiang and Liaoning provinces that will match in size some of the world’s largest refining facilities. One of these plants is being built on Zhoushan island in Zhejiang province and is expected to have a refining capacity of 20 million metric tons a year when it is completed next year, while the plan is to double this figure by 2020. This move would make it one of the biggest plants in the region matching facilities in Singapore, South Korea and India. Given that these new independent refineries would be well placed close to deep-water ports, they would attract considerable attention from a large number of oil producers and traders, likely boosting the VLCC Far Eastern trade. This gives, in theory, the crude oil carrier a new lease of life, promoting the trade of crude oil feedstock into China rather than refined oil products and petrochemicals. There is a catch however, as around the same time that these new independent oil refiners come online, other refineries from oil producing nations such as Saudi Arabia’s Jazan project, Malaysia’s Rapid and Brunei’s Hengyi are expected to start operating, adding to the intense competition these Chinese newcomers will have to face, along with the excess capacity the sector as a whole still has to deal with”, Lazaridis concluded.
Source: Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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