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Tankers: Strait of Hormuz, Oil Prices and Marine Insurance Premiums

Tanker owners are having to deal with a multitude of external factors having an impact on rates and trading. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “the global shipping industry is facing numerous challenges at a time when geopolitical turmoil has escalated in view of the recent tension in the Middle East. The latest attacks on vessels and the downing of a US drone have profoundly advanced the cost of shipping oil from the Middle East. The Joint War Committee of Lloyd’s Market Association insurance body has reported in May, the addition of Persian Gulf and surrounding waters along with the Gulf of Oman to the list of areas under risk of “Hull War, Piracy, Terrorism and related perils”. The risks on stake have urged insurance companies posing high insurance premiums on maritime companies that operate through the Strait of Hormuz. Accordingly, war risk underwriters are charging additional premiums for vessels trading in the Middle East Gulf and the Gulf of Oman”.

According to Ms. Katerina Restis, Tanker Chartering with Intermodal, “as known, it is the privilege of the insurers to invoice premium to shipowners, who may then endeavor to pass it on to charterers if the market situation and charter terms warrants so. For example, after the incidents, for an Aframax calling one port in the MEG, the premium could range from USD 40 to 50k. Thereafter, underwriters instead of insuring the entrance in the area are providing owners an offer basis the specific voyage to be performed in the area which may then be further negotiated”.

Restis added that “almost 30% of all crude oil supplies shipped pass through the thin canal of the Strait of Hormuz. Many argue that the threat to commercial shipping is obvious and hasn’t been seen in the region for decades. As reported by the chairman of Intertanko, “if the waters are becoming unsafe the supply of the entire Western world could be at risk”. Historically, escalations that disrupt MEG oil supplies are infrequent and thus as analyzed freight rates could increase due to owners avoiding the region. As known the oil-supply countries in the MEG area including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are accommodating close to 20% of the world’s oil demand that passes through the Strait of Hormuz”.

She also noted that “the oil markets have overall remained relatively calm, although the fact that there was a second series of incidents since May, has definitely intensified concerns. During the days of the incident prices for Brent crude rose almost 4% to $61 a barrel, a level still much lower though compared to the $72 a barrel in mid-May. Thus, we did not view great increase in oil-prices and one of the reasons is that traders are possibly betting that the fiery tensions will not burst into a full-scale conflict. Additionally, worries on global growth on the back of the trade war together with US shale oil production growing at a fast pace have also kept the oil price increase in check. The OPEC meeting at the beginning of this week came at a significant and unstable time for the oil market and as a further extension of the cuts did take place as it was anticipated by most investors, it will be interesting to see how strong the support on prices will be going forward”, Restis concluded.

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