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Sunday, December 17, 2017

The VLCC fleet is increasing, and more than half is controlled by oil companies or state-owned companies

Johan G. Olsen's latest VLCC fleet list shows that out of a total of 471 existing VLCCs (including 2 O/Os) (up from 440 six months ago), oil majors or state-owned companies own 136 VLCCs (29% of the fleet). In addition, they control 102 tankers on period employment to 2007 and beyond (up 16 compared to six months ago) which gives them control of over half the fleet. Thus independent owners own 71% of the VLCC fleet, but control less than half of it. 

Of the total of 81 VLCCs on order for delivery up to 2008, independent owners have contracted 60 while oil majors or state-companies have contracted 21. 15 of the independently-ordered VLCCs are already committed on period employment.  

The traditional oil majors (BPAmoco, ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Shell) and Tokyo Tankers have a combined owned fleet of 27 VLCCs, plus 31 on period contract until 2006 or later (including 22 to Tokyo Tankers), giving them control of only 12% of the VLCC fleet. 

VELA has the biggest single oil company fleet, owning 19 VLCCs, including 15 single hulled (SH) built 1993 and later. It has 4 on contract from the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, 7 on contract from Gulf Management Services (+7 VLCCs for delivery 2006-2008) and 7 on other period contracts. This gives VELA total control of 38 VLCCs. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) owns 15 VLCCs, all double hulled (DH). The Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC) has 8 VLCCs (including 6 SH VLCCs) plus two on order. Altogether Middle East companies own 58 VLCCs, and control 19 on period contracts. 

The biggest independent VLCC owner is Mitsui OSK with 31 VLCCs, 8 of which are SH, plus 8 on order. NYK has 26 VLCCs, 8 of which are SH, plus 8 on order. Altogether Japanese owners have a fleet of 85 VLCCs (18% of the fleet) plus an orderbook of 23 VLCCs. 

Frontline has 27 VLCCs, 12 of which are SH [including 1 with double sides (DS)]. 4 of these VLCCs are on bareboat contract to Shell. Frontline has sold a number of VLCCs to the German KG Dr. Peters and has 6 VLCCs on 10/13 year period charters back from Dr. Peters. Frontline is therefore the independent company that controls the largest number of VLCCs in the world. 

The other major independent VLCC owner, World Wide, has 21 VLCCs, 9 of which are SH, plus 2 on order. The distribution of the largest VLCC owners is: five owners with 19-31 VLCCs, eight with 10-16 VLCCs, and fourteen with 5-9 VLCCs. Almost all VLCC owners own 5 or more units. 

There are only 55 trading VLCCs left that were built before 1990 (26 built 1988/89), 3 of which were built in the 1970s. The peak building years were 1993 and 2000, when 39 and 41 VLCCs respectively were delivered. 

The average size of VLCCs is increasing, as in other segments. The average size of those built before the 1980s was 264,299 dwt, whereas the average size of those built in the 1990s was 285,759, and the average size of those built later was 304,745. Only 2 of the VLCCs on order are below 298,300 dwt. 

The LRFairplay database contains some 288 VLCCs with double hull (DH) and 9 with double bottom (DB) or double sides (DS). This means that 38% are SH (including DB or DS) and 62% DH, by number. By dwt, 64% of the VLCC fleet is double hull. The DH share over the next few years will probably mainly increase because of delivery of new DH VLCCs rather than removal of SH VLCCs. By end 2005, when all the VLCCs built 1982 and earlier have been sold for recycling, or otherwise reemployed outside the oil trades, some 65% will be DH and the fleet will have increased by 32 units to 472 VLCCs.

(Different sources are used for the graph and the NITC VLCC order in May is included. The figures are therefore not quite in line with the JG Olsen publication.) 

According to MARPOL, only 2 VLCCs are due for phase-out this year, with another 9 due for decommissioning before 2010. 2010 is the year when there will still be some 153 SH (including DB/DS) VLCCs in existence, all less than 25 years old. We do not know how many of these will find a market to trade until the age of 25 years old, as relatively few countries have declared their position on whether to accept SH tankers until the age of 25 years old after 2010. We know that Europe will not accept them, but Japan and Singapore are key countries among those that have declared that they will do so. 

We have recorded 8 VLCC period contracts of 6 months and longer so far in 2005 compared to 28 in 2004, 19 in 2004 and 40 in 2002.

The positive factors for VLCCs:

  • Increasing U.S. crude oil imports. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)/Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. crude oil imports in 2003 were 9.5 mbd and in 2004 10.0 mbd. Imports so far this year have been 10.14 mbd or some 10% higher than for the same period in 2004. The increase in imports of some 0.4 mbd corresponds approximately to the increase in commercial and strategic stocks (SPR). The U.S. appears to have decided to continue to increase the SPR to 1,000 m barrels compared to the previous aim of 700 m barrels and current level of some 693 m barrels.
  • China increased consumption by 0.86 mbd in 2004 and consumption is projected to continue to increase by 0.47 mbd in 2004. Domestic production is projected to increase by 0.11 mbd.
  • The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline opened this week, and output from the East Mediterranean terminal may provide additional opportunities also for VLCCs.
  •  Declining Venezuelan oil production. According to the Financial Times, PDVSA's own output has dropped by more than 60 per cent since Mr Chávez came to power in 1998, a trend that analysts say has accelerated in the past year because of poor technical management of oil wells and refineries. By contrast, for the first time since Venezuela's oil industry was nationalised in the mid-1970s, production from the private sector is rising and could soon surpass PDVSA's. While officials such as Mr Ramírez and Mr Chávez insist that reports of a 'gap' of 650,000 b/d are part of a media conspiracy, experts are pointing to figures that show a wide shortfall in the country's international accounts as proof of an official "cover-up" over a collapse in production. 

Negative aspects for VLCCs are:

  • Uncertain economic growth
  • Increasing fleet – no trading VLCCs have been sold for decommissioning so far in 2005 and we have recorded no conversions
  • Limited U.S. and Chinese refinery capacity may mean that the increasing oil demand and imports will, to a grea extent, be met by products imports. But refinery capacity is tight worldwide
  • Increasing Russian oil exports from the Baltic: Former Soviet Union (FSU) oil export has, however, only increased by 0.12 mbd 1Q05.
  • Resumption of Iraqi oil exports from Ceyhan may back out crude oil loadings in the Middle East.

Contact: Erik Ranheim