Aframax sails around South America to avoid canal

  • Market: Crude oil, Freight
  • 12/06/23

An Aframax tanker hauling crude from Mexico's west coast has sailed around South America en route to the US Gulf coast to avoid record-long wait times at the drought-stricken Panama Canal.

The Frankopan, laden with 740,000 bl of Maya crude, sailed through the Magellan Strait on 6 December after loading in Salina Cruz, Mexico, on 20 November. It is due to arrive in Texas on 30 December after opting for a roughly 40-day voyage around the tip of South America rather than sit through record-high wait times at the Panama Canal, according to data from analytics firm Vortexa.

A Salina Cruz-US Gulf coast voyage takes about 10 days via the Panama Canal, but the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has warned that vessels without a reservation may face "indefinite delays." Wait times would have been about two weeks and climbing when the Frankopan was hired.

PMI booked the Frankopan at $3.6mn in mid-November, market participants said.

Crude tanker voyages have mostly been unaffected by the canal delays, accounting for just 4pc of all cargoes that crossed the canal in the 12 months ended 30 September, according to ACP data. West coast Mexico-US Gulf coast crude voyages are rare, with just one other shipment since 2016, according to Vortexa. The vast majority of cargoes shipped from US Gulf coast or Caribbean ports to Asia-Pacific destinations are hauled on 2mn bl very large crude carriers (VLCCs), which are too large to transit the Panama Canal.

At least one crude shipping fixture failed in November due to the canal delays. A charterer hired an Aframax for a voyage hauling Colombian crude from Covenas, on Colombia's Caribbean coast, to the US Gulf coast, but the ship was unable to transit the canal in time to load, a market participant said.


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