London — Freight rates in the US Gulf Coast Supramax and Ultramax market surged this week, as a clear-out of tonnage following the Christmas holidays left charterers scrambling to fix their prompt requirements.
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The first signs of bullishness were felt late Monday and into Tuesday as participants reviewing their tonnage lists saw tight availability well into the second half of January, with shipowners adjusting their offers sharply upward as a result.
The more bullish fundamentals were more clearly in evidence Wednesday as a flurry of fixtures emerged including the Unity Discovery, 60,600 dwt, heard fixed on subjects at $26,000/day to MUR basis delivery Mississippi River when/where ready for a grains trip to Japan, while the Indra Oldendorff was heard fixed at similar levels to the Far East.
This compares with $24,500/d fixed on the Star Lutas, 61,000 dwt, the previous week, for a petcoke trip to China, a route which traditionally trades at a $1,000/d premium to grain voyages due to its shorter duration, as petcoke is more rapidly loaded and discharged than grains.
A similar trend was seen in voyage rates, with a 50,000 mt grains stem heard fixed from the US Gulf Coast to North China at $43.50/mt for standard load/discharge terms, up $1/mt from the previous week.
The Houston to Krishnapatnam petcoke route basis 50,000 mt was assessed at $42/mt Wednesday, while the Houston to Qingdao petcoke route same basis, was assessed at $40.50/mt, both up $1/mt from Friday's levels and near year-to-date highs on the firm fundamentals.
Tight tonnage is expected to lend support to freight into the second half of January, but rises in the US Gulf Coast will be capped by softness in the West Mediterranean, with the first ballasters already seen en route this week including the Karimu, 57,000 dwt, heard fixed $11,000/d basis DOP Huelva to ADMI for a grains trip via the Mississippi to Israel.