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Atlantic Ultramax freight rates see first increase since December

London — US Gulf Coast Supramax and Ultramax dry bulk markets were suffused with positive sentiment for the first time since December this week, with shipowners reporting improvements in late February laycan cargo freight estimates.

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As tonnage lists in the US Gulf Cost market began to thin for late February dates, the market saw a slight firming on time charter rates for the next eight weeks.

Sources expect to see slow, incremental increases on fronthaul time charter rates of around $1,000/day per week, up to a cap of around $18,000-19,000/day for early-mid March, while trans-Atlantic routes were expected to reach around $9,000/day.

In the market, XO was heard having fixed the Guo Qiang 8 Ultramax from the US Gulf Coast to India at around $14,500/day on Thursday or around $500/day above market expectations.

Later, Bulk Trading was heard having fixed the New Dedication, a 2018-built Ultramax, on time charter from the US Gulf Coast to the west coast of India with a petcoke cargo for $15,000/day.

"There are a lot of orders for the second half of February, but very few shipowners are putting out their ships on those dates so it's hard to tell what's going to happen," said one shipbroker source.

Adding: "But charterers might want to get ahead of the market and take advantage of these low rates while they can."

A charterer source was quoted a rate of $30/mt for a March-loading 50,000 mt petcoke cargo sailing from the US Gulf Coast to India, and on Friday the Houston to Krishnapatnam, East Coast India, 50,000 mt petcoke route was assessed at $28/mt, a day-on-day increase of 50 cents.

--Sam Eckett, samuel.eckett@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com