The LNG shipping market could stand to benefit from a potential increase in demand over the coming summer months, as Europe prepares for another winter of energy supply challenges. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “this year, LNG supply will likely exceed demand, so prices will need to decline to levels that will encourage higher consumption. More specifically, according to Refinitiv estimates, this summer, there may be a global surplus of about 4 billion cbm available for NW Europe, with the U.S. making up the majority of that excess. Currently, the global LNG market is pivoted by Europe’s LNG contracting activity ahead of the following winter, as well as competition for cargoes from Southeast Asian price-sensitive buyers”.
According to Mr. Chara Georgousi, Research Analyst with Intermodal, “pricing dynamics are critical because they reflect the interaction between fundamentals and macroeconomic and geopolitical risks. The market will need to be carefully balanced, and the rebound in China’s demand and the demand of Asia’s price-sensitive buyers will be key factors. As the price of LNG has decreased (last Friday the Northeast spot Asian price was assessed at $12.5/MMBtu, down 16.6% m-o-m), there is now greater spot demand in Asia, with price-sensitive consumers returning to the market, including Bangladesh, India, smaller Chinese LNG firms, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as Philippines and Vietnam that are also expected to enter the spot market this summer”.
She added that “since the beginning of the year, vessel rates have embarked on a downward trajectory. In the 2022 competitive market, freight rates in the Atlantic averaged close to $160,000/day as vessels competed to move cargoes to Europe. However, since the beginning of 2023, the freight market has been pivoted by a combination of lower natural gas prices and increased vessel supply, notably in the Atlantic Basin, thus exerting more pressure on rates. Spot rates currently stand above historical average Q1 levels, yet notably lower than the highs recorded in 4Q2022. On the other hand, T/C rates are currently seen as robust, reflecting future tightness in the market”.
Meanwhile, “based on recent orders signed with South Korean shipyards, LNG newbuilding prices increased in the first quarter of 2023 amid high demand, limited shipbuilding capacity, and increasing inflation. More specifically, according to our preliminary data prices have climbed to $253 million during 1Q2023, 127% above the 5-year average newbuilding price (in a Korean yard). In terms of the number of orders, during 1Q2023, 17 vessels have been ordered versus 37 during 1Q2022 due to extremely tight shipbuilding capacity, especially in the top 3 Korean yards”, Ms. Georgousi said.
“During 1Q2023, a total of 6 sales of second-hand LNG vessels have been reported, with 50% of the vessels sold being less than 10 years. In 1Q2023, the price for a 5-year-old LNG vessel stood at $245 million, 128% above the 5-year average, while the price for a 10-year-old LNG vessel hovered close to $155 million, 121% above the 5-year average”, Intermodal’s analyst noted.
Finally, in terms of demolition activity, “the year kicked off a good start in terms of LNG carrier scrap sales, which in 2022 totaled just one vessel. So far in 1Q, a total of 3 vessels have been sold for scrapping at robust prices as owners scramble to replace their older tonnage ahead of new regulations on shipping emissions”, Ms. Georgousi concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide