Friday, September 23, 2011

New Supertanker Mothballed

From Bloomberg News

A shipowner will mothball a newly built supertanker for the first time since the 1980s as a glut of the ships erodes earnings to an unprofitable $1,000 a day.

The tanker, capable of carrying 2 million barrels of crude, will be sent to a natural harbor in Malaysia, Arild Johannessen, an Oslo-based spokesman for Wilhelmsen Ship Management, which will oversee the deactivation, said by phone today. He declined to identify the ship because the details are private.

Earnings from this class of vessel, which carry about a fifth of the world’s oil, last week averaged $1,000 a day, according to Braemar Shipping Services Plc (BMS) in London, the U.K.’s second-largest publicly traded shipbroker. Some tankers were contracted speculatively and not secured against long-term charters, according to Holger Romer, spokesman for Hamburg, Germany-based Dr. Peters Group, owner of 19 supertankers.

“If you have a new ship that was ordered in ‘07 and ‘08, it was at a high price and now if you don’t have a charterer, it’s a big problem,” Romer said by phone. Dr. Peters Group owns 19 supertankers, he said.

The largest supertanker fleet in 29 years has cut earnings from the vessels by 96 percent since 2007 when they rose to a record $229,000 a day, according to data from Clarkson Research Services Ltd., a unit of Clarkson Plc, the world’s largest shipbroker.
Orders Surged

Owners ordered the most tankers in about three decades in 2007 and 2008, depressing freight rates to a 14-year low, as the fleet swelled almost three times faster than demand, Clarkson data show.

The last time new tankers were delivered straight from shipyards to anchorages, a process known in the industry as lay up, was in the 1980s, with owners sending the vessels to fjords in Norway, Eleusis Bay in Greece and the waters off Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Hong Kong-based Charles de Trenck at Transport Trackers, an adviser on shipping and trade flows, said today by e-mail.

Prices for new tankers have fallen 35 percent to about $100 million, according to EA Gibson, a London-based tanker broker. Those ordered in 2007 and 2008 require daily earnings of $55,000 to break even, the broker estimated in November.

Running costs, excluding fuel, are $10,645 a day, according to Moore Stephens International, a London accounting firm.
Cold Lay-Up

The mothballing is probably the first time in at least three decades that a new supertanker has been deactivated before trading, according to Halvor Ellefsen, a shipbroker at Galbraith’s Ltd. in London.

“More than anything else, it just shows how many ships there are,” said Ellefsen, who has been a broker since 1987. “Even if this happens on a meaningful scale, it’s hard to see it saving the tanker industry as ships that get laid up will just come back into the market when freight rates jump.”

The particular kind of mothballing for this ship is called cold lay-up, which involves anchoring the vessel in a protected area for a “long period of time,” and shutting all systems, with a minimum crew on board, according to Johannessen.

Warm lay-up means the ship can return to trading more quickly.

The supertanker, along with another of the same type already trading, will join another 15 ships already managed at anchor at Labuan, Malaysia, Johannessen said.

There are 152 supertankers contracted to be built at Asian shipyards, and 570 in the fleet trading today, according to Clarkson. A record 55 of the tankers, also known as very large crude carriers, began trading in 2010, and 41 have joined so far in 2011, Clarkson data show.

There was an overhang of 50 VLCCs, Jens Martin Jensen, chief executive officer of the management unit at Frontline Ltd., the largest supertanker operator, said on a conference call Aug. 26.

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