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2022 Review - Tankers

2022 was impacted by the fallout from the war in Europe, subsequent sanctions on Russian exports, China’s Covid policy, and OPEC+’s policies. Inflation, the energy crisis in Europe and its indirect impact on oil demand only added more to the list of uncertainties. A year ago, in our 21Q4 release, we concluded that tanker fundamentals were poised for recovery in late 2022, but the war jump-started the recovery ahead of our projections, with rates for most tanker segments propelled by inefficiencies resulting from the war. VLCCs lagged behind other sectors because of China’s Covid policy and OPEC+ production constraints. Moreover, sanctions on Russian exports mainly affected Aframax and Suezmax fleets and routes.


Eventually, VLCC rates did gain momentum in September when Chinese crude imports increased on the back of significantly higher refinery runs (13.3 mbd in 22Q3 to 14.2 mbd in 22Q4) due to substantial increases in product export quotas allotted in 22Q4.


Going into the last quarter of 2022, there were still lingering uncertainties such as the European embargo of Russian crude coming into force in December, the G7 price cap and strict lockdowns in China. The G7 price cap was set at $60 per bbl, significantly higher than the price of Russian crude, which is understood to be offered at levels well below $60 per bbl. Consequently, this cap has minimum impact on the market, but the European ban on Russian exports does play an important role in boosting tanker tonne-miles.


Given the strong freight environment and expectations of substantial disruptions in trading patterns in the short-term, secondhand asset values increased dramatically over the year.

However, because of long-term uncertainties on the regulatory front, new ordering was limited in 2022. As discussed in our latest eBrief report, most secondhand asset values increased by at least 40% during 2022, with Aframaxes, product tankers and vintage tanker values gaining even more ground. Interest in vintage tankers picked up in the second half of the year, possibly to carry Russian cargoes. New ordering was concentrated between MR and Aframaxes. MR and Aframax orders accounted for almost 70% of the 8 million dwt tankers ordered in 2022; Suezmax and VLCCs accounted for only 30%.


With tonne-mile demand significantly outpacing fleet growth, crude tanker fleet utilization breached the 80% mark for the first time since early 2021. Conventional VLCC spot rates were below zero for the first half of 2022 but strengthened in the second half and averaged more than $52,000 per day. Aframax and MR rates surged after the war as war-related sanctions disproportionately affected these segments. As seen in the chart below, MR spot earnings for conventional tankers averaged $42,000 per day during 22Q2, 22Q3 and 22Q4, significantly above their 2010-2021 average of $13,000 per day.


Dry bulk and tanker eBrief reports are available now to subscribers via Navigator. We will release the 23Q1 quarterly update by the end of February. Flagship clients will receive the market updates via hosted site or delivery via email link. For further information, please contact one of our offices or email us at info@marsoft.com

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