Settling from last week’s minor uptick in activity and sentiment—perhaps buoyed by increasing bunker prices as well—rates for northern ships have settled back into their historical sideways motion as owners continue to keep a hard line at operating costs, which is where rates continue to hover dangerously just above. Market dynamics are undeniably poised against owners at the moment, as they have been for most of the year, with open tonnage just plentiful enough in most areas of trade to keep charterers from feeling any urgency to fix on forward positions or give premium rates unless absolutely necessary. With the onset of summer sluggishness and widespread holiday-taking across northern and western Europe, there is little hope for a recovery in the short term. Whether July brings a new wave of demand, inspired by a return of grain from the southern European markets as the Black Sea harvest starts, remains yet to be seen.
For now, owners are happy to get anything done at last-done levels with the alternative unfortunately being no business at all. Inter-Baltic rates are still fixing mid-high teens of about EUR 16/mt with EUR 17/mt once again a long shot after having a brief window of opportunity in mid-June. North-South Baltic trades are being done in the low teens of EUR 13/mt from the Russian Baltic to the lower Swedish Baltic, though charterers have had little trouble getting them down to EUR 11/mt if necessary. Northbound rates from the Spanish Atlantic to Rotterdam have dwindled to rather uninspiring rates of EUR 10/mt on general cargoes of 3,000mt, though middle teens of EUR 16/mt or so are still achievable to ARAG from the western Med.
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