S&P, Newbuilding and Demolition Update (September 27th, 2014) – Tanker Market Focus

Since our last week three weeks ago, crude tanker rates have softened with VLCC and Aframax average spot rates at approximately $12,000 pd and Suezmax tankers at approximately $16,000 pd, on the back of weak trading activity. At such levels, crude tanker spot rates stand substantially below the yearly average, and it has to be noted that present VLCC rates are very close to operating break even and far below levels required to pay for the vessel’s financial cost as well. Despite the weakness in freight rates, there has been meaningful activity in the sale & purchase market at strengthening prices, as optimism keeps building that the crude tanker market is well into a structural market recovery, and thus the present weakness in the market is only seasonal. A recent article on Reuters that pressures are building up in the US on allowing crude oil exports can only interpreted as a positive development for the crude tanker markets.


VLCC Tanker ‘Samco Sundarbans’ sold in en bloc transaction to DHT Holdings (Image source: Samco Shipholding)

Double Hull Tankers DHT Holdings (NYSE: DHT) has finalized the acquisition of Samco Shipholding Pte Ltd in Singapore with ownership of seven VLLC tankers with average age of 4.5 years at approximately $322 million; DHT Holdings also acquired in the same transaction and remuneration Samho’s 50% interest in Goodwood Ship Management.   The vessels are built at Hyundai Samho and they are MT „Samco Sundarbans” and MT „Samco Taiga” (2012, Hyundai Samho, 318,000 dwt), MT „Samco Amazon” and MT „Samco Redwood” (2011, Hyundai Samho, 318,000 dwt), MT „Samco Europe” and MT „Samco China” (2007, Hyundai Samho, 318,000 dwt) and MT „Samco Scandinavia” (2006, Hyundai Samho, 318,000 dwt). This being a corporate transaction rather than a pure asset acquisition, there have been additional considerations, although DHT Holdings appears to be paying approximately $50 mil below the nominal market value of the vessels. On pure asset sales, BW Maritime of Singapore has sold MT „BW Nyssa” (2000, Daewoo, 299,500 dwt) to Smart Tankers in Greece at $29.5 million, probably at a $2 million premium over the market. The price reveals strong buyer’s optimism as the vessel is due drydock and special survey in January 2015 at a cost of several million dollars while she will be turning the dreaded 15th anniversary from delivery that puts her on the second priority list of many charterers. The vessel was reported in January 2014 as tied up to a conversion project at $32 million purchase price which transaction apparently has not materialized.

In the Suezmax tanker market, MT „Aegean Navigator” (2007, Hyundai, 159,000 dwt) has been reported sold at $48 million to undisclosed buyers, while other reports state en bloc deal along with sistership MT „Aegean Horizon” and MT „Aegean Dignity” and MT „Aegean Angel” (2004, Hyundai, 159,000 dwt) to clients of Teekay (likely Tanker Investment Limited) at pricing to be confirmed.

In the Aframax tanker market, there has been the sale of coated tanker (LR2) MT „SC Laura” (2001, Dalian New Yard, 109,000 dwt) at $14.5 mil by KGAL to South East Asian buyers rumored to be Indonesians. The price seems to be softer than average which is mostly attributed to the Chinese-built of the vessel and the nature of the seller / transaction, while a week ago, similar tonnage from the same shipbuilder achieved $23.5 mil collectively for MT „Beach 3” and MT „Beach 4” (2000/1999, Dalian New Yard, 109,000 dwt). The Japanese-built vessel MT „SC Sara” (2001, Sumitomo, 105,500 dwt) was sold at $17 million earlier this month to Singaporean-based buyers (Zodiac Maritime), a noticeable ‘premium’ for the Japanese pedigree of the vessel. The still Japanese built MT „Song Lin Wan” (2002, Namura, 106,000 dwt) has been sold by CSDC at $19.5 million to again Zodiac Maritime. For more modern tonnage, it has been reported the sale of Daewoo Hulls 5402 and 5403 with 2015 delivery for coated tankers (LR2) 115,000 dwt at $57 million each to US-based buyers.

As we have mentioned in the past, despite the increased buying interest in the crude tanker market, buyers keep being very price sensitive with strong preference for Japanese or Korean built tonnage, and usually for vessels built in a year starting with ‘2’ getting more of the attention. Given that most banks would not provide mortgage financing for older than ten-year-old tankers, independent tanker buyers paying cash have been very opportunistic on their approach, and any urgency in the sale or other transaction handling mishaps or limitations from the sellers usually end up costing a lower sale price.

The products and chemical tanker market has been selectively active as well, with focused interest in the coated panamax (LR1) tankers and MR pumproom design tonnage. The LR1 tanker MT „Holy Victoria” (2008, Minami Nippon, 75,000 dwt) has been sold at $29 mil to Greece based Prime Marine; the smaller and older MT „Moonlight Venture” (2006, Sumitomo (Yokosuka), 61,000 dwt) achieved $22.5 million by unnamed Greek interests.


BP’s MR2 Tanker ‘British Harmony’ at anchor (Image source: shipspotting)

The MR2 tanker MT „St. Nikolai” (2005, Onomichi, 47,000 dwt) achieved $17.5 million by Indonesian buyers (technical details on the vessel are conflicting, but it seems she’s ‘pumproom design’ which would make her price in line with the market). The older but seemingly more sophisticated tanker MT „High Nefeli” (2003, STX, 47,000 dwt) achieved $15 mil by Greek buyers (Benetech Shipping). MT „British Harmony” and MT „British Chivalry” (2005, Hyundai Mipo, 47,000 dwt) were sold by BP at $19 each with bareboat back to the sellers for two years at undisclosed rate ($8,000 pd bareboat rate some wishfully well-placed reports mentioned) on an operating lease basis. MT „Topaz Express” and MT „Diamond Express” (2009, Minami Nippon, 45,700 dwt) were sold at $22 million each by Daichi Chuo to Island Navigation in Hong Kong. The older MR2 tanker MT „Hellas Progress” (1999, Hyundai Heavy, 46,000 dwt) has been reported sold by Latsco (London) Ltd. to West African interest at $10 million. For modern tonnage, publicly traded companies have also been active with acquisitions in the sector with Scorpio Tankers (Nasdaq: STNG) acquiring from Ceres Hellenic SPP Hull No S5126 on resale basis (2014, SPP, 50,000 dwt) at $37.10 million. Aspiring to soon to file for a public listing, Singapore based Navig8 acquired at $41 million each six MR2 tankers from Wilmar MT „Polaris” (2014, Hyundai Vinashin, 49,000 dwt) and sistership Hull Nos S401, S402, S403, S404 and S405 (2014/2015 delivery, Hyundai Vinashin, 49,000 dwt); the Scorpio acquisition seems to be in-line with prevailing market levels while the Navig8 acquisition seems to be a 10% premium to the market, which is especially interesting given that the shipbuilder is not considered top tier name.


Euronav’s ULCC ‘TI Europe’ taken for storage purposes by China’s Unipec at reportedly $25,600 pd for six months. (Image source: Shipspoting)

Crude oil has been trading in contango recently and a number of crude oil tankers have been reported chartered for storage, including Euronav’s 442,000 dwt ULCC MT „TI Europe” taken by China’s Unipec for six months plus options at $25,600 pd. The level of discount for present delivery of the commodity is still weak to justify a massive storage play and absorption of crude oil tanker supply from the market which hopefully would boost freight rates. The recent strength of the US Dollar reflecting the Fed’s statements about increasing interest rates in the US has had a negative impact of commodities, in part causing the contango, but making commodities less attractive as a storage medium, especially in an increasing interest rate (costlier) environment thus putting a limit to the storage play. On the other hand, increased refining capacity by Middle East refineries seems finally to be having a positive impact on larger product tankers (LR1 and LR2), a story hyped to ethereal existence for several years now. There are hopes that finally there will be impact on the market which could improve asset pricing. The waiving of export taxation on certain palm oil gradients by Southeast Asian countries, most notably Indonesia, in an effort to win market share on the world markets in a bumper crop season for palm oil, hopefully will have a positive effect on IMO III / veg oil chemical tankers.

Honestly, shipping can use all the help it can get in improving freight rates by contango and storage, to increasing refining capacity in Middle East, or fiscal strategy to move around record levels of vegetable oils.

© 2013-2014 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.  All Rights Reserved.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:  Access to this blog signifies the reader’s irrevocable acceptance of this disclaimer. No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders of this website.Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that information herewithin has been received from sources believed to be reliable and such information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing, no warranties or assurances whatsoever are made in reference to accuracy or completeness of said information, and no liability whatsoever will be accepted for taking or failing to take any action upon any information contained in any part of this website.  Thank you for the consideration.


Is the crude oil tanker market dead?

The dry bulk market seems to be bouncing along, the containership market has been trading sideways, the product tanker market seems to keep attracting ever more attention on the back of the shale oil developments in the US and the bringing online of refineries in the Middle East, Indian and Asia, and the crude tanker market has been left for dead.

The truth of the market is that the dynamics of the market, whether for VLCCs, Suezmax or aframax tankers doesn’t seem very inspiring. Smaller quantities of oil will have to be transported in the future with the US less dependable on imports and the Chinese positively discriminating in favor of their own-flagged or –controlled tonnage. No great surprise that asset prices for crude oil tankers have been in a free fall in the last few months, to say the least.

In the last month, there have been a few transactions in the crude tanker market that at the very least are noteworthy. The transactions refer to modern tonnage, newer than ten years of age maximum, vessels coming from top quality shipbuilders and also from sellers / managers / operators with solid credentials, good ‘stables’ as we say in the business.  Also, the buyers were top quality Greek owners with solid track record of picking the bottom of the market, and having made both by operating the vessels and also by playing the simple, old advice of ‘buy low, sell high.’

A couple of the noteworthy transactions: American Eagle Tankers or AET for short (a wholly-owned MISC subsidiary in Malaysia) just sold the VLCC MT „EAGLE VIENNA” built at Hyundai Samho in 2004 to Alpha Tankers (Kanellakis) in Greece for US$ 40 mil. The last comparable transaction in the VLCC market took place at the end of May 2013 for the Mitsui-built and controlled MT „KAIMON II” to interests of Altomare (Greece) at US$ 29 mil. The estimated newbuilding contract of a VLCC is about US$ 90 mil with estimated salvage value of more than US$ 20 mil, and an estimated economic life of 25 yrs.  The steep depreciation line is obvious, but the sale of the MT „EAGLE VIENNA” shows a relative improvement over the sale of the MT „KAIMON II”; also, AET did well on the trade given that their VLCC entrance was backed by multi-year COA to transport heavy oil (coiled VLs) for PDVSA from Venezuela to Singapore for power generation and they have fully recovered their investment.

Also, DSD (Det Stavangerske Dampskibsselskab) of Norway seems to be in a divesting mode of modern, high quality aframax tankers following the charter default of Sanko Shipping: the 2010-built at Sumitomo Heavy aframax MT „STAVANGER BELL” was sold to interests of Eastern Mediterranean Maritime (East-Med controlled by Thanassis Martinos) in Greece at reportedly $31.5 million, and a couple of weeks earlier, same seller and buyers exchanged the 2004-built aframax tanker MT „STAVANGER BAY” at US$ 20 million.  EastMed has a solid reputation as a reference account of spotting market inflection points and buying opportunities. A newbuilding aframax tanker would be priced at US$ 50 million at present, so the level of the pricing and the discount thereof is apparent. Estimated scrap price at present stands at about US$ 7 million.  Of course, aframax rates are at about $13,000 pd with vessel daily operating expenses at US$ 8,000.   No much room for leverage, but definitely cash flows are positive; the vessels are very good quality and under good management, and theoretically 15+ years remaining economic life.

Strangely, neither Alpha Tankers nor EastMed have bothered with the hot product tanker market for acquisitions, and most definitely have not bothered with equally good vessels older than ten years of age.

This is a bifurcated market, and the smart money seem to show the way…

© 2013 Basil M Karatzas & Karatzas Marine Advisors & Co.

No part of this blog can be reproduced by any means and under any circumstances, whatsoever, in whole or in part, without proper attribution or the consent of the copyright and trademark holders.