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Russian aggression disrupts tanker trades, spot fixtures down 8%

Photo: AET AET VLCC sailing
Major changes to chartering behaviour, shifts in tanker trade lanes, and an increase in off-market fixtures changed the tanker market dramatically following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February.

Analysing reported dirty spot fixtures in 2022, New York broker Poten & Partners has noted a number of key changes and significant variations between tanker sectors. The total number of spot fixtures fell by almost 8% compared with 2021, Poten said. VLCC deals were up by 23% but this was more than offset by a 15% fall in Suezmax fixtures and a 22% drop in Aframax deals.

The increase in VLCC fixtures was the result of more relatively short voyages such as the US Gulf to UK Continent, Poten said. The fall in the number of reported Suezmax and Aframax deals was a result of Russian sanctions, with less intra-regional trade and more long haul trips to Asia. Both cargo volumes and tonne-miles rose across the board.

China’s Unipec was the largest VLCC charterer by far, with 931 fixtures and an 18.3% share of the market, according to Poten’s figures. Next came ExxonMobil, Shell, and Vitol with 4.4%, 3.8%, and 3.4% shares respectively.

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The Suezmax picture changed dramatically. Lukoil dropped out of the top ten and was replaced by India’s IOC. Total was the largest charterer, jumping to lead position from number nine in 2021. ExxonMobil went from seventh to second over the same period.

Fewer fixtures were reported in the Aframax sector, Poten noted, although both tonnes moved and tonne-miles increased. This suggests a larger volume of off-market activity, the broker said, particularly fixtures involving Russian crude oil.