Low Oil Price Environment Could Alter Tanker Market Fundamentals

Oil prices could remain low for a number of months, a scenario which could alter tanker demand and shift trade routes. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic crisis is a world-shattering event that will change the world as we know it. Societies are facing challenging moments, markets have been violently disrupted and it will become even more visible later on that governments around the world will experience major shifts in their respective political and economic power. As we have already witnessed, Brent prices are experiencing their lowest levels in 17 years, closing at $27.2 per barrel last Friday, whereas West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) closed at $23 per barrel. According to Goldman Sachs analysts, the price of Brent, which is the international benchmark, “could dip as low as $20 per barrel and test operational stress levels”.

The shipbroker added that “a week ago, Bank of America warned that the US is close to a new major recession due to the worldwide spread of the Covid-19. Simultaneously, oil producing countries keep on increasing their production at record levels amidst a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, after OPEC+ (OPEC and Russia) failed to come to a consensus over additional production cuts. Official selling prices lowered by as much as 20% have been also used as “weapons” in this price war”.

According to Intermodal’s Tanker Chartering Broker, Mr. Apostolos Rompopoulos said that “at the moment, global demand for oil hovers around 100 million barrels per day. Yet, as consumption is gradually decreasing due to the tremendous economic shake of the COVID-19 and the subsequent containment measures, demand could possibly plunge an additional 20% according to some first estimations. The final outcome of this crisis still remains unknown; however, certain analysts reassure that some more optimistic scenarios are possible to play out. According to Andreas de Vries, advisor at Saudi Aramco, the successful containment policies against the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of stimulus packages could stem the secondary and tertiary effects on the economy”.

Rompopoulos added that “the oil market status quo calls for an a pragmatic resolution aiming to terminate the price war. Nevertheless, a termination of the price war will not be able to push prices back to $60 plus per barrel, with levels around $40 seeming more realistic if major producers come to an agreement. As de Vries highlights, even in the best-case scenario, the average crude price will still remain considerably below what most producing countries need in order to successfully balance their respective budgets. Indeed, the extent of the virus containment measures that are currently being implemented will affect to a massive degree a number of sectors that are heavyweights for the economies of many of the producing nations, like tourism for example”.

Intermodal’s analyst concluded that “at the same time there is a growing number of voices that warns for a series of major economic consequences, with the worst-case scenario being a global economy devastated by a wave of continuous bankruptcies. We are seeing significant economic stimulus announced around the world, with the U.S. expected to reach soon a deal on a $2 trillion coronavirus aid, but the effectiveness of the implementation of these packages remains uncertain at this stage. A failure of these stimulus measures to support vital sectors of the economies around the world will lead to a prolonged crisis that could prove worse than the big downturn of 2008, but for now let’s remain reservedly optimistic and hope it doesn’t come to that”, Rompopoulos concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide



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