SINGAPORE July 25 (Reuters) - Rates for very large crude carriers (VLCCs) on key Asian freight routes could hold steady or gain next week as charterers seek to complete their vessel chartering programme for the first 20 days of August, brokers said on Friday.
The pause would come after charter rates from the Middle East to Asia jumped this week to their highest levels since February 27 after falling on Monday as owners resisted charterers' attempts to push prices lower, brokers said.
"It's been quite busy this week," fuelled by charterers rushing to charter ships before next week's Eid holiday, said Kevin Sy, freight derivatives broker at Singapore's Marex Spectron.
"I expect them to stay around the current level and might even move up a bit," Sy said on Friday, although he questioned if the gains are sustainable.
"There are a lot of cargoes in the market," a Singapore based VLCC broker said on Friday and thought rates could rise a further two or three points on the Worldscale measure.
There have been 20 VLCC cargoes fixed from the Middle East to Asia in the last week, according to Reuters shipping data.
Charterers have yet to start fixing cargoes for the last 10 days of August, the broker said. Between 120-125 cargoes are forecast to be fixed for the whole of August, the broker said.
Rates for VLCC cargoes from West Africa to Asia recouped the losses from the previous week as tight tonnage matched the limited cargo demand.
"We're not seeing a lot of West Africa cargoes in the market, although we are expecting charterers to come in," the broker said.
Rates for a VLCC voyage on the benchmark route from the Middle East to Japan rose to W52.50 on the Worldscale measure on Thursday from W46 last week.
Rates for West Africa to China climbed to W52.50 on Thursday against W47.75 a week earlier.
"The general sentiment is firm for the VLCCs for the time being," Norwegian ship broker Fearnley said in a note on Thursday.
In other trades, rates for 80,000-tonne aframax tankers from Southeast Asia to East Coast Australia climbed to W109.75 on Thursday from W96.25 a week earlier buoyed by general positive sentiment and an increase in cargoes.
Clean tanker rates from Singapore to Japan edged up to W108.25 on Thursday, against W107.50 last week amid tighter vessel supply, a Singapore clean tanker broker said on Friday. (Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)