* Rates on Brazil, Australia routes to China hit new lows for year
* Rio Tinto only miner chartering ships this week -broker, Reuters data
* Panamax rates sliding on lack of cargoes -broker
By Keith Wallis
SINGAPORE Dec 4 (Reuters) - Rates for capesize bulk carriers on key Asian routes, which set new lows for the year on Wednesday, are set to continue their decline next week as too much tonnage chases too few cargoes, brokers said.
"It's a pretty dire market at the moment," said one Singapore-based capesize broker on Thursday. "I can't remember rates being this low for a long time."
Rio Tinto is the only one of the big miners actively chartering ships, the broker said, and even if other miners such as Brazil's Vale SA too some charters, "it would not make a dent in the tonnage available."
Rio Tinto chartered two capesize vessels in the past week, Reuters data showed, while other miners such as Vale and Fortescue Metals Group stayed out of the market.
Some owners are hoping there will be one last rally in the capesize market before the Christmas holidays, Norwegian ship broker Fearnley in a weekly note on Wednesday.
"However, looking at supply-demand figures as well as the dropping forward freight agreement values, such a rally appears unlikely," it said.
Freight rates for the Western Australia-China route were at $6.79 per tonne on Wednesday, down from $8.27 a week earlier. Wednesday's rate was the lowest this year and close to last year's low of $6.78 per tonne.
Rates for the Brazil-China route were also at their lowest for this year on Wednesday, closing at $16.72 per tonne against $18.49 a week earlier. Last year's low was $16.40.
Rates in the smaller panamax market will also continue to fall next week as the available tonnage builds amid few signs of new cargoes, a Singapore-based panamax broker said on Thursday.
"There are no fresh cargo inquiries. There's definitely no upside," the Singapore-based broker said.
Daily rates for a panamax transpacific voyage fell by more than $1,000 to $8,263 per day on Wednesday, continuing a decline that started in early November.
Freight rates for smaller supramax bulk carriers remain stable with round trip voyages to India paying around $12,000 per day, Fearnley said in its weekly note.
The Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index closed at 1,079 on Wednesday, down from 1,239 last week. (Editing by Tom Hogue)