SINGAPORE, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Rates for capesize bulk carriers on key Asian routes are again likely to fall as the volume of tonnage limits any price gains from an increase in chartering activity, brokers said.
Freight rates for a voyage from Australia to China have steadily fallen since Sept. 30 and are the lowest since May 22. Rates from Brazil to China have fallen for the last six weeks and are now the weakest since January 2013.
"We don't know how low rates can go. The capesize market is just in a rut," said a Singapore-based capesize ship broker on Thursday.
Moves by ship owners to resist charterers' attempts to push rates lower have failed because there is too much tonnage available, the broker said.
"Some owners have been brave and have tried to fight charterers but there are so many ships, owners have to take competition from other owners into account," the broker said.
Charterers are now chartering ships for loading in mid-November, making it more unlikely there will be a traditional fourth-quarter rebound in the capesize market.
"I don't see the market changing massively in the next couple of weeks," the broker said.
"A relatively good number of West Australia to China roundtrips are being concluded, but rates are further down, presently being around $7.25-$7.30 per tonnes," Norwegian ship broker Fearnley said in a weekly market note on Wednesday.
There were just three fixtures to haul iron ore from Brazil to China in the last week, against two the previous week, Reuters shipping data showed.
Rates for the Western Australia-China route fell to $7.25 on Wednesday, down from $7.70 per tonne a week earlier.
Freight rates for the Brazil-China route dropped to $17.14 per tonne on Wednesday against $17.86 last week.
But the rebound in the smaller panamax market is set to continue due to strong dry cargo volumes from Indonesia and north Asia, ship brokers said.
There has been negligible impact on the panamax market after China announced last week import tariffs of 3 percent for anthracite and coking coal and a 6 percent import tariff on non-coking coal, a Singapore-based panamax broker said on Thursday.
"China was quiet anyway," the broker said.
"The north Pacific and Indonesia are very busy. It is tight for tonnage in Japan because of typhoons. Indonesia is busy with vessels hauling coal to India," the broker said.
Charterers are willing to pay $8,500-$9,000 per day for north Pacific round-trip voyages, although even close to $10,000 per day is possible for the right ship.
Rates for a panamax transpacific voyage climbed to $7,963 per day on Wednesday compared with $7,442 a week earlier.
Freight rates for smaller supramax bulk carriers were coming under pressure this week, Fearnley said.
"Singapore positions are fixing in region of $10,000 per day for trips to India whereas Indonesian and Australian roundtrip voyages are being fixed in region of $8,000 per day," Fearnley said.
This compared with $9,500 per day last week for a Pacific roundtrip voyage.
The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index closed at 963 on Wednesday against 991 last week. Technical analysis showed the benchmark is expected to test a support at 935 in a week, a break below which will lead to a further loss to 854. (Reporting By Keith Wallis; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)