Europe fuel oil arbitrage window to Asia open despite high freight

15 January 2014 16:45 Source:ICIS News

LONDON (ICIS)--Northwest European high sulphur fuel oil exports to Asia have picked up from the previous week, industry sources said on Wednesday.

New shipping fixtures seen this week revealed three Suezmaz vessels are due to move from Rotterdam to Singapore, carrying a total of 390,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

Last week, around 140,000 tonnes of fuel oil were seen booked from northwest Europe to Asia.

The arbitrage window to Asia is open, despite sellers having to pay $4.2m to chart a Suezmaz vessel, as the price spread between Europe and Asia is wide at $49/tonne.

While dependent on freights, a minimum spread of $35-37/tonne is generally considered to be necessary for an arbitrage window to open east.

"The restraining factor is freight, shipping is still expensive at $4.2m for a Suezmax, a Suezmax can carry 130-145,000 tonnes. In principal, you need to maximise your loading," a fuel oil trader said.

The typical deadweight of a Suezmax ship is about 160,000 tonnes.

Fuel oil is normally transported to Asia via very large crude carriers (VLCCs), which can carry either fuel oil or crude oil.

However, the industry has been using the smaller-sized Suezmax vessels to transport the volumes east since late November because of its shorter lead time for delivery.

Meanwhile, low sulphur fuel oil [LSFO] supply in Europe is "tighter", the trader said.

There is not much activity in the sector. A second trader added: "LSFO fuel market [is] quiet."

By Cuckoo James