When it comes to the VLCC spot market, there is only one charterer to have on speed-dial – China-based Unipec
In what is now a New Year tradition, Poten & Partners has again crunched the numbers on spot market fixtures to reveal that Unipec of China was again the top 10 VLCC charterer in the previous year.
Due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, tanker demand declined in 2020, which was reflected in a 16% fall in tanker spot charters overall and a 7% decline in VLCC charters in 2020.
Oil demand recovered quickest in China and in the VLCC sector, Unipec completely dominated spot charters, fixing more VLCCs than the next 12 charterers combined.
Poten noted some interesting changes in the VLCC spot market: Petrobras moved up from fifth to third and Equinor moved into the top 10 from 14th in 2019.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to open the crude oil production taps and its rush to charter in tonnage in March and April 2020 saw its national carrier Bahri enter the top 10 VLCC charterers list in eighth place.
Suezmax fixtures fell by 23% in 2020 compared to 2019.
The Suezmax spot market was more uniform than the VLCC sector, with number one charterer ExxonMobil (fourth in 2019) and number two, the Indian Oil Corporation (sixth in 2019) sharing similar fixture numbers to Unipec, which occupied third position in the Poten list of the top 10 Suezmax charterers in 2020.
In the Aframax sector, spot fixtures in 2020 were down 20% year-on-year but the top three places were unchanged: Vitol, Shell, then BP in third spot. Unipec was in fourth position, emphasising the vital importance of Chinese demand on the fortunes of the tanker spot market.
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