Tankers seen having worst year since 1997 on Africa oil slowdown

|By:, SA News Editor

China’s smallest oil imports from west Africa in at least two years are curbing demand for tankers, prolonging the worst rates in more than a decade for Frontline (FRO +1.2%) and other owners, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

Tanker owners are enduring a fifth year of declining rates as fleet growth outpaces demand; China's preference for cheaper Middle East oil over west African supplies shortens voyages by 42%, effectively increasing the capacity of the fleet.

Daily earnings for VLCCs have plunged 77% to $4,450 this year, according to shipbroker Clarkson; FRO says its ships need $25K/day to break even.

Shippers: SFL, NAT, TK, TNK, TOO, TGP.