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BW's Helmut Sohmen issues tanker warning

BW's Helmut Sohmen issues tanker warning

Hong Kong: A stark warning from Bergesen Worldwide boss Dr Helmut Sohmen (pictured) will do little to ease the jangling nerves of tanker owners, already troubled by the imminent rush of new deliveries in the coming months. Speaking in Hong Kong last week, the Austrian-born son-in-law of the late Sir Y.K. Pao predicted that difficulties will start in 2008-9 when the majority of new tankers will be delivered.

"After 2007, we will have to face a very large order book in all sectors," he said in the interview, quoted by Bloomberg. He said tanker rates had already come down somewhat from the very high rates of the last two years but were still profitable.

However, industry statistics point to the scale of the task ahead as tanker owners seek to absorb record volumes of new tonnage. According to Clarkson, there are more than 160 VLCCs due to be delivered, equivalent to around 36% of today's 490-ship fleet. Figures for other tanker fleet sectors are similarly daunting. There are more than 100 Suezmax units on order - about a third of today's tonnage; some 230 Aframax units - just over 35%; 130 Panamax vessels, equivalent to nearly 44% of the fleet in that sector; and more worrying still, 918 tankers in the 10-60,000 dwt range ?" more than two fifths of that fleet today.

Long-time shipping analysts recall with consternation and dismay earlier times in which a global mismatch of tonnage supply and demand caused misery for countless owners and their bankers. They are particularly concerned about new ship prices ?" VLCCs come with a price tag of about $130m compared with about $75 million in 2003. However, the more bullish amongst them today point to the world's Asian economic boiler-house: if energy demand continues to rise at recent levels, they reason, new tankers will replace older units, either at the end of their lives or phased out under IMO double-hull rules, and the market could stay in balance.  Time will tell!  [29/01/07]

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