Vancouver Aframax rates at 6-month lows ahead of TMX

  • : Crude oil, Freight
  • 24/04/23

An oversupply of Aframax-size crude tankers on the west coast of the Americas in anticipation of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) pressured Vancouver-loading rates to six-month lows on 19 April.

With the 590,000 b/d TMX project expected to commence commercial service on 1 May, shipowners have positioned more vessels to be on the west coast to satisfy anticipated demand in Vancouver, but that demand has yet to materialize, leaving the Aframax market oversupplied for now, market participants said.

Aframax rates from Vancouver to the US west coast began falling in mid-to-late March as an increase of ballasters added to tonnage in the region, helping drop the rate to ship 80,000t of Cold Lake on that route to $1.50/bl on 19 April from $2.55/bl on 21 March, according to Argus data. The rate held at $1.50/bl on 22 April, the lowest since 2 October and just 3¢/bl higher than the lowest rate since Argus began assessing the route on 21 April 2023.

Similarly, the Vancouver-China Aframax rate also fell to a six-month low of $6.59/bl for Cold Lake on 19 April, down from $7.78/bl on 2 April, according to Argus data.

In addition to the ballasters, two Aframaxes — the Jag Lokesh and the New Activity — are hauling Argentinian crude to the US west coast and are expected to begin discharging on 3 and 6 May, respectively, according to Vortexa. The Argentinian port of Puerto Rosales is mostly restricted to Panamaxes but can accommodate smaller Aframaxes.

Downward pressure from across canal

A recent slump in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Aframax market, due in part to falling Mexican crude exports to the US Gulf coast, has exerted additional downward pressure, a shipowner said.

"Though markets at each side of the (Panama) Canal are different, softer sentiment looms in the region," the shipowner said.

Last week, a charterer hired two Aframaxes for west coast Panama-US west coast voyages, the first at WS102.5 and the second at WS95, equivalent to $12.71/t and $11.78/t, respectively, as multiple shipowners competed for the cargoes.

The Vancouver Aframax market typically draws from the same pool of vessels as the west coast Panama market. For example, the Yokosuka Spirit, one of the Aframaxes hired to load in west coast Panama, discharged a Cold Lake cargo in Los Angeles on 21-22 April after loading in Vancouver in mid-March, according to Vortexa and market participants.

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