Oil-product tankers seen unprofitable through 2017 on fleet glut


Tankers of all five types constructed in 2010, when ship prices were highest, will lose money in the outlook period, McQuilling said. Among vessels built last year, only VLCCs will make money, it estimated.

Earnings can be boosted by speed cuts or changes in trading patterns, the consultant said. Every knot by which the fleet reduces speed creates a need for between nine and 20 MR tankers as vessels take more time to complete journeys, it said.

Lower speeds also curb consumption of marine fuel, the industry’s main expense. Fuel prices averaged about $658 a ton last year, more than double the cost in 2008, according to figures compiled by Bloomberg from 25 ports.

McQuilling made projections for Suezmax and Panamax ships as well as VLCCs, Aframaxes and MRs. Each VLCC can hold 2 million barrels of crude, twice as much as a Suezmax and triple the capacity of an Aframax. Suezmaxes and Panamaxes are the largest vessels to navigate the Suez and Panama canals.

The consultant’s earnings forecasts assumed a fuel price of $690 a ton and a speed of 13.5 knots.

Blackstone, Ross

Product tankers have drawn investments that include spending by Blackstone Group LP, the biggest private-equity firm, and billionaire Wilbur Ross. Blackstone said in August it bought nine ships for an undisclosed price, while Ross was part of a group that spent $900 million on 30 vessels in 2011.

Global demand for refined products fell 3 percent last year and will drop again in 2013 as the U.S. becomes a net exporter of the fuels for a second year, said McQuilling. Still, ton-mile demand for product carriers will climb 2 percent a year on average through the outlook period, according to the consultant.

Ton-mile demand is measured by multiplying the amount of a ship’s cargo by the length of a voyage.

The amount of cargo carried by the world’s 2,173 product tankers will rise to 902 million tons by 2015 from 823.9 million tons in 2011, according to DVB Bank SE, a German transportation lender, and Clarkson Plc, the largest shipbroker.

Bloomberg News

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