Supertanker owners are facing the longest stretch of unprofitable rates in 17 years with the supply of new vessels increasing nine times faster than demand for oil, according to Exim News Service.
Shipping companies are making barely $3,155 a day for a single voyage, 90 per cent below the $30,900 that Frontline Ltd, the biggest operator, said that it needs just to break even.
Morgan Stanley projects that the tanker fleet will expand by almost 13 per cent next year, and the International Energy Agency feels oil use will grow by 1.4 per cent.
Ships ordered before the rates plunged from $177,036 in July 2008 are swelling the fleet of about 526 supertankers.
Owners have responded by cutting average speeds by 9 per cent since March and anchoring 24 per cent more vessels since January, data showed.
The global tanker fleet will expand by 86.5 million dwt in two years, equal to about 27 per cent of the existing capacity, it was projected.
Most owners lease vessels in the single-voyage market, or for longer-term accords, some of which remain profitable.
While one-year contracts are trading at a daily rate of $30,000, five-year charters are at $39,000, London-based Clarkson estimated.