Tanker shipmanagment specialist Signal Group has suggested that tanker freight rates will rise as a consequence of the blockage in the Suez Canal.
The company said there are currently around 30 tankers above 25,000 dwt waiting to cross the Suez Canal and it expects most vessels in ballast will decide to wait until the situation clarifies and, if fixed on a charter party, will likely get cancelled by charterers through missing agreed laycan dates. This will no doubt affect vessel supply on both sides of the Canal, as well as market rates. Black Sea-Med Aframax seems to be leading the charge with WS170 on subs late on Friday 26th.
Over the coming days and weeks, more vessels are expected to have to decide if they will cross through the Suez Canal or via the Cape of Good Hope. For reference, a vessel currently crossing the Indian Ocean would take 14 days to reach Malta via the Suez versus 33 days via the Cape of Good Hope. The cost for a laden Aframax to pass through the Suez Canal is roughly $300,000.
Analysis of tanker types normally transiting the Suez shows that the most impacted are the Suezmaxes, Aframaxes and LR2 vessels. These vessel types trade through the Suez in both directions.
The LR2 market, being particularly thin, with a very small number of vessels both East and West, will potentially see significant changes on freight rates. It is obvious that vessel supply is already at the lowest we have experienced in the last three months. Freight rates have already reacted earlier this week.
A major shipping lane is clearly closed, but this will most probably have a short-term effect for a few charterers and owners that are trying to carry cargo through the Canal at present. Most large crude tankers (VLCCs) have historically taken the route around the Cape when undertaking long East to West or West to East voyages. Mid-sized tankers (Suezmax, Aframax) are more likely to be affected, maybe more so on the carriage of refined products. Low levels of crude oil demand due to the third wave of coronavirus across Europe and the USA are keeping oil prices in check, yet we still saw a 4% rise in prices on a Friday.