Lightering is the process of transferring a cargo to a facility onshore from a smaller vessel. This is typically an Aframax vessel removing parcels from a VLCC or Suezmax. This process is required if water depths at regional ports are too shallow to accommodate a vessel’s draft or if technical restrictions prohibit calling to a certain port. Reverse lightering can also occur if a cargo is taken from a terminal and delivered to a vessel offshore. This practice is common for West-to-East fuel oil cargos. Lightering companies also solely provide hoses, fenders and mooring masters if a vessel is not required by the chartering company.
In recent years, McQuilling Services has noted the growth of clean petroleum products that are being delivered to East and South Africa (Figure 1). These imports have been supported by a lack of downstream infrastructure and there are few expansions on the horizon that are likely to alter these trade flows. According to the International Energy’s 2012 Medium Term Report, Africa’s refining capacity will only expand by 440,000 b/d through 2017. In comparison, China and the Middle East are expanding downstream activities by 2.9 and 1.9 million b/d respectively in the same time frame. Nevertheless, the economies of East and South Africa should continue to expand on the back of global demand for the region’s natural resources. These resources range from crude oil, natural gas, coal and timber to food-stuffs with volumes primarily moving to the East.
The current tanker market, that can be characterized by an over-supply of tonnage and lackluster crude oil demand, may provide owners and charterers the opportunity to work together to achieve mutual profitability. In order to assess how this type of relationship could materialize, we use an example of a VLCC delivering a cargo from Ras Tanura to LOOP and then ballasting to Bonaire. We used this voyage due to the owners’ requirement to boost earnings through securing a backhaul cargo after discharging in the US Gulf. The vessel’s sailing speed was calculated at 13 knots for all legs of the voyage while port and canal fees were factored accordingly. To complete this voyage two sailing options are possible; transiting the Cape of Good Hope or the Suez Canal. Each of these options present opportunities for the charterer and the owner to maximize voyage economics.