Oil transporter

Teekay Tanker

(TNK) - Get Report

reduced its quarterly dividend by 18%, hit by slackening worldwide demand for oil in general, and said the rates it charges customers will likely remain weak for the rest of the year.

The company is the core business of

Teekay Corp.

(TK) - Get Report

, a holding company. It distributes most of its profits to shareholders under a full-dividend policy. In announcing fiscal fourth-quarter results Friday, the Vancouver company said it would pay a 59-cent dividend per share for the first period of 2009, down from the 72 cents it distributed in the previous quarter.

"Spot-tanker rates have declined significantly from the record rates achieved in 2008 and are likely to remain under pressure for the remainder of 2009 due to weak market fundamentals," Teekay Tanker's chief executive, Bjorn Moller, said in the press release.

The company took a non-cash charge of $13.8 million, or 55 cents a share, to write down the cost of an interest-rate swap -- a form of derivative used by companies to manage exposure to fluctuating interest rates on other debt on their balance sheets. Excluding the charge, the company said it had net income of $13 million, or 52 cents a share.

The extent of the decline in prices -- and the decline in demand for oil -- was made clear by the spot rates the company charges for its two classes of ships, Suezmax and Aframax. In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, Teekay said it earned an average daily Suezmax spot rate of $46,497, down 29% from the same period a year. Aframax rates fell by about the same percentage, to $33,971.

Earnings in the oil-carrier sector have been predictably bad since the recession began. Last week, Teekay competitor

Nordic American Tanker

(NAT) - Get Report

, for example, said its first-quarter earnings fell nearly 27%.

In afternoon trading Friday, Teekay shares were changing hands at $12.22, up 26 cents from the previous session, on more than double the daily average volume.

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