Stena Suède is one of the world’s most energy­-efficient Suezmax tankers. Here she is unloading crude oil at Finnart Terminal in Land Long, on the west coast of Scotland.

Stena Bulk


Stena Bulk is one of the world’s leading tanker operators, offering safe and cost-effective transports of crude oil and refined petroleum at sea. This requires a holistic perspective – from development and construction to crewing and chartering of first-class tankers.

In the last 20 years, crude oil transports have grown by 2–3% a year, while the increase for refined petroleum and chemicals has been 4–5%.

For much of 2013, freight rates for crude oil transports were at their lowest levels since 2000. Part of the rebound late in the year was seasonally related, although prices reached higher levels than expected and freight rates quadrupled. Thanks to this and several other brief increases, annual result per vessel finished the year at nearly the same levels as in 2012.

One of the reasons for the strong December was China’s decision to again begin expanding its petroleum stocks leading into 2014. It commissioned a number of refineries, and the petroleum price differential between different parts of the world made long-distance shipments profitable.

Oil exploration in the US has increased by about 30% since 2009. As a result, refineries are producing more, which in combination with strong productivity in 2013 has generated higher exports, benefitting the market for product tankers. In the process, the US has reduced its crude oil imports by about 25%, primarily affecting imports from West Africa, which have dropped from about two million barrels per day in 2010 to 0.5 million barrels in 2013. US refineries, many of which were threatened with closure just a few years ago, have now been rejuvenated. An upgrade of refineries and expansion of their capacity is expected in the years ahead.

Efficiency improvements by Stena Bulk

Stena Bulk’s commitment to quality and commercial operation played a prominent role in its 2013 results. The company’s strengths are a modern fleet purchased or chartered on competitive terms and the ability to maintain high utilisation. Its business is built on a balanced structure of freight contracts and strong customer relations, combined with an efficient way of operating in the open spot market.

Fleet improvements

The fleet consists of around 100 controlled vessels, about fifty of which are part of the Stena Weco system.

Stena Weco’s fleet of product tankers has grown by about 20% since 2012. The system is designed around partnerships and contracts in combination with operation in the open spot market. Since Stena has decided to let the system grow in pace with demand, there is little risk associated with expansion.

During the year, Stena Bulk announced together with its partners that it had ordered four more IMOIIMAX tankers, which will be operated by Stena Weco. This increases the total number of vessels in the series to 10. Based on current market conditions, these four, along with the previous six, were acquired on favourable terms. Since the contract was signed, prices have risen significantly, giving Stena Bulk a competitive advantage in this segment as well.

As part of an expansion into vegetable oil shipping in Asia, Golden Stena Weco, a joint venture between Stena Weco and Indonesia-based Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), acquired another 10,000-tonne chemical tanker, Golden Adventure. At the end of the year, the joint venture also purchased five 17,000-tonne chemical tankers.

GAR, which produces and trades palm oil, chose Stena Weco as its transportation partner because of how Stena operates its vessels and its financial stability. The companies have shared an office in Singapore since 2012. Golden Stena Weco’s transport volumes and revenue both doubled in 2013 from the previous year.

In January and February 2013, Stena Bulk took delivery of two Eco Suezmax tankers. The vessels were the last in a series of seven, the first five of which were delivered in 2011–2012. These Suezmax tankers are the most fuel-efficient in their class.

On 31 January 2013, the Suezmax vessel Stena Sunrise was christened at Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) in Geoje, South Korea. The tanker is the last in a series of seven and is owned by Stena Bulk. She is a fuel-efficient, third-generation Suezmax tanker and, like the others in the series, is now part of the Stena Sonangol Suezmax Pool.

Sustainability produces positive results

Another factor affecting the company’s results is the environmental improvements it has made. Compared to 2012, fuel consumption was reduced by 14%. The goal was to reduce consumption by 3%, which is also the goal for 2014. The gains are the result of Stena Bulk’s operating systems and shipping know-how.

The company is working continuously to more efficiently maintain its fleet. Hulls and propellers are kept clean from fouling, and the company is gradually evaluating and installing equipment that effectively reduces fuel consumption.

The Stena Sonangol Suezmax Pool (SSSP) is controlled by Stena Bulk and the Angolan state oil company Sonangol. SSSP comprises 21 modern vessels, 15 of which are Eco ­Suezmax class and the others high-quality Suezmax tankers. Sonangol has devoted considerable energy to keeping its entire fleet operating efficiently.

Restructuring and development of the organisation

Stena Bulk is continuing to grow and gradually creating a workforce that combines experience with a passion for the industry. The Stena Tanker Division, comprising Stena Bulk and its joint ventures that operate tankers, had a shore staff of 83 at year-end, excluding on-board crew. The employees are spread across a number of companies on several continents, so the challenge is to maintain Stena Bulk’s and Stena’s ­values throughout the business, which is something Stena Bulk’s management makes sure to express in forums with employees.

CEO Comment

We are confident looking ahead to 2014. Freight rates for crude oil have passed bottom and the product market is expected to maintain about the same growth rate as in 2013. The chemical market is a little further behind, but will see positive development in 2014.

Business relations will be improved, and the goal is that the chemical sector will grow. Going forward, we will continue to grow in pace with our contracts and demand. With a customer focus and efficient operations, Stena Bulk is consolidating its position as a leading brand in international tanker shipping. As of 2014, overall responsibility for Stena’s LNG vessels again rests with Stena Bulk.

Erik Hånell

CEO Stena Bulk

Established supplier in record time

Stena LNG provides safe and effective transport of liquid natural gas, LNG. The company was founded in 2012 to focus on Stena’s investment in the promising LNG segment and is since 1 January 2014 a part of Stena Bulk.

Stena LNG’s fleet consists of three modern vessels. At the start of 2013, two of them, Stena Clear Sky and Stena Crystal Sky, were chartered out on longer contracts. The contract on the third, Stena Blue Sky, expired in 2013. The single most important event during the year was Stena LNG’s success in being awarded a new, two-year contract for this vessel. The new contract took effect right after the previous one expired, and the three vessels are now contracted to 2015.

The contract was important, and negotiations were effectively conducted directly with the customer. This was important since it was signed at a time of falling rates.

Since it was founded in 2012, Stena LNG has very quickly become an established player in the LNG segment. It was thanks to Stena LNG’s position that the customer initiated the Stena Blue Sky contract and that the deal was finalised without any competing offers. Stena’s technological, operational and crewing expertise is part of the reason for Stena LNG’s ability to establish itself in the segment in record time.

The company has a technological and safety philosophy that sets it apart from the competition, at the same time that it is distinguished by a high level of service and a long-term commercial focus.

The strategy is to be prepared for new opportunities by carefully tracking potential acquisitions. This paves the way for future growth. The aim is to be a strategic partner of first-class international gas companies.

Market conditions contrasted sharply in 2013 with the previous year’s historically high freight rates. The year was characterised by slow economic growth, with rates falling by 30% compared to 2012. The daily rate in 2012 peaked at USD 150,000 and stabilised at the end of 2013 at around USD 100,000 per day. The company expects rates to continue to fall in 2014 due to an excess of vessels. There is a major imbalance in today’s market between where LNG is produced and where it is consumed. This imbalance is expected to grow and in the next year lead to higher demand for LNG transports.

One question going forward concerns the US, which is debating whether to export LNG or keep this inexpensive energy source in the country. Developments so far have been slightly more positive than expected. The US administration has approved project after project in the LNG sector, and the legal process has been faster than anticipated.

LNG production is also expected to increase in Canada, Russia, Australia and East Africa in the years ahead. Together with expectations in the US, this should produce a very positive market in the next year.


The ice-free waters of the north save BOTH the environment and resources

The ice sheet around the Arctic has become thinner, making it possible in the last few years to navigate north of Russia – at least during the summer months and when Russian nuclear-powered ice breakers help to keep the Northern Sea Route open.

In mid-September 2013, Stena Polaris, a 65,000 dwt P-MAX tanker, left the Gulf of Finland with a cargo of 44,000 tonnes of naphtha and set sail for the port of Yeosu, in South Korea. The northern short cut saved resources and the environment.

“Choosing the Northern Sea Route instead of the Suez Canal saves time. From Northern Europe to South Korea it can mean as much as two weeks. We saved eight days and about 320 tonnes of bunker oil,” said Patrik Svahn, Manager Commercial Operations at Stena Bulk, who was on the trip and wrote about it in a blog,

“There was a lot of interest in our sailing,” he continued. “On board Stena Polaris were four South Korean journalists. The journey was documented and has already been shown on Korean television.


For South Korea, the Northern Sea Route is an opportunity to compete with other ports in the region, and the shorter travel time is a critical factor if it is going to succeed.

For Stena Bulk, the journey was a collaborative effort with many involved. Stena Polaris is owned by Concordia Maritime and the trip was a joint venture with South Korea’s Hyundai Glovis. It was in fact the first time a Korean shipping company had taken its cargo through the Northern Sea Route.

“For years, Hyundai Glovis has been trying to get a ship to travel through the Northern Sea Route from Europe to Korea. When we made land in Yeosu, an impressive welcoming committee was on hand to receive us,” said Patrik.

Traffic along the Northern Sea Route is going to increase. Some estimates say that it could grow ten-fold by 2021.

“Russia is interested in seeing traffic grow, and their administrative authorities are receptive. They want to find year-round use for their ice breakers,” said Patrik.

“I learned a lot from the journey and it was an experience to see how the Northern Lights illuminate the frozen night sky. I also realized the opportunities and challenges our personnel face in Arctic waters. This means we at the office can understand the big picture and the customer in a better way,” he concluded.

Travelling the Northern Sea Route is a major competitive advantage. The trip between Asia and Europe is upwards of 12–13 days shorter.

Next in Annual Review