Traders are in a mad dash to rent some of the world’s biggest oil tankers so they can store crude while prices remains in record-low territory.
The Wall Street Journal reports that TI Oceania, which has been booked by oil traders Vitol, is stationed off Singapore and is likely to remain there for most of 2015.
China’s Unipec booked its sister ship, TI Europe, way back in September, when oil prices dropped below $US100 per barrel (let’s hope they didn’t buy the oil then).
The ships are giant. Here’s the TI Europe, for example:
As oil prices continue to plunge amid a supply glut and weaker demand, companies reckon they can make more money from simply hoarding the oil and selling it at later date, when prices rebound.
This phenomenon is known as “contango,” which is a term for when the price of commodity futures is higher than the current price. In this case, traders believe that there’s more money to be made from simply sitting on oil, if they can bear the costs of storing it.
Oil prices will stay low if there continues to be space to store it. However, once storage is full, producers will finally be forced to slow output because there won’t be anywhere to put the surplus. From that point, the price has a chance to rebound, assuming demand doesn’t keep falling.
According to Goldman Sachs, however, that turnaround probably won’t happen as quickly as more firms decide to store rather than sell oil. The investment bank is expecting a slow “u-shaped” recovery, rather than a rapid “v-shaped” bounce in prices:
Not only has the US expanded storage capacity significantly, but Europe has also shuttered refining capacity that can be used as storage, and the global crude tanker fleet has grown by 100 million dwt since 2008 — while oil at sea has remained stagnant given the dominance of onshore drilling. We believe at least a 1.0 million barrel per day surplus can be maintained for a year before any significant problems would arise.
Here’s how that looks: