More tankers have been sold for demolition this year to date than during 2016 as a whole, according to Alibra data.

Some 49 tankers have made their way to scrapyards so far this year, with sellers favouring Bangladesh slightly more than India, compared to 41 ships during the full-year 2016.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Greeks have seen the writing on the wall and have been the nation that has this year sent the largest proportion of tanker tonnage for recycling. Greeks have sold 24% of all tanker tonnage for demolition so far this year, compared to 10% in 2016 as a whole. This week saw John Angelicoussis's Maran Tankers sell its first ship for demolition in four years, the 1995-built VLCC Maran Lyra.

What is more, the average age at which tankers are meeting the welder’s torch appears to be decreasing. In 2017 to date, the average tanker sold for scrap has been 24.5 years old, compared to 27.4 years in 2016 and 27.3 years in 2015.

So what is it that has spooked shipowners? Firstly, the depressed freight market. Spot rates for both clean and dirty tankers are at some of the lowest levels seen since 2014 – which (not so coincidentally) when tanker demolition peaked in recent years, with 95 ships sold for recycling that year.

Another factor that is driving tankers on to Bangladeshi beaches are looming environmental regulations with which costly new systems like ballast water management systems or exhaust scrubbers must be fitted to ships to ensure compliance. Installing scrubbers, for example, costs around $6.5m per vessel – which is way above the value of many older and/or smaller vessels – why spend more on retrofitting than your ship is worth? That’s why many owners are opting to scrap ships instead.

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