Crude oil tanker earnings on the major Middle East route were steady this week, helped by light bookings although rates have yet to rebound after a recent surge late last month.

The world’s benchmark VLCC export route from the Middle East Gulf (MEG) to Japan <DFRT-ME-JAP> on Thursday reached W42.57 in the worldscale measure of freight rates, or $14,080 a day when translated into average earnings, the latest Baltic Exchange data showed.

That compared with W41.21 or $11,142 a day on Wednesday and W46.90 or $20,727 a day last Thursday.

“Activity has ... revived but the tempo is firmly in the control of the charterers. Again, firm business is being overwhelmed with offers and the competition among owners remain fierce,” broker Fearnleys said.

RS Platou markets said separately: “VLCC rates have been on a downward trend since hitting $35,000 per day the last two weeks of July.”

In January, average earnings reached just over $61,000 a day - their highest since February 2010, before the rally lost steam. Earnings in late May and early June fell into negative territory or the first time since early September 2013.

VLCC rates from the Gulf to the United States <DFRT-ME-USG> were at W25.94 on Thursday versus W25.92 on Wednesday and W27.35 last Thursday.

Rates for suezmax tankers on the Black Sea to Med route to W78.32 or $21,225 a day. That compared with W79.09 or $21,669 a day on Wednesday and W86.50 or $27,815 a day last Thursday.

“The Mediterranean market really did nothing more than tick over this week. With the lack of activity, the list grew fairly quickly,” broker Braemar ACM said, adding that more ships available for hire also dampened sentiment.

Cross Mediterranean aframax tanker rates were at W92.22 or $12,509 a day on Thursday. That compared with W85.44 or $8,368 a day on Wednesday and W82.85 or $6,624 a day last Thursday.

“The Mediterranean and Black Sea (for aframaxes) have also seen some rates rise this week. There’s been some enquiry from Libya that has been the driving force of this increase, despite the current tension,” Braemar ACM said.

Aframax tankers on the Mediterranean route, which transport the majority of Libya’s crude oil, normally carry loads of up to 600,000-700,000 barrels.

Libya’s oil output dropped to about 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) from 500,000 bpd last week, but a spokesman for the state-run National Oil Corporation said oilfields were still secure despite clashes in the capital Tripoli.

Black Sea and Mediterranean crude tanker rates are still off their peak in January when they rallied to their highest since 2008 as weather-related disruptions in the Turkish Straits raised the cost of transporting cargoes.

Average earnings per day are calculated after a vessel covers its voyage costs such as bunker fuel and port fees.