SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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It has been a pretty slow week overall, with all the main trading areas reporting lower cargo volumes. Asia is just restarting after the holidays, but it is unclear why the other regions are inactive.

U.S. Gulf

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Business on the route to the Far East has yet to pick up in the immediate aftermath of the holidays in Asia, and this is causing some uncertainty among owners who still have space to fill in March. They seem more willing to compromise on freight levels, although nothing has been done below $70 per metric ton for 5,000-ton cargoes so far. The main grades that are under consideration are ethanol, methanol, ethylbenzene and glycol.

Transatlantic business is steady, if a little unexciting, and freights are static. Six thousand to 10,000 tons of cumene has still to be booked from Pasadena, Texas, U.S., to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and there are cargoes of vinyl acetate monomer, glycol and biodiesel noted for March shipment. Base oils are not under consideration.

Prompt space is tight for shipments between the gulf and the Caribbean, with most of the scheduled carriers only able to look at cargo possibilities from mid-March onwards. Some base oils are still be toyed with to different destinations within the Caribbean. Otherwise, there are cargoes of caustic, ethanol, palm oil, glycols and aromatics.

Ethanol has regained the top spot as the grade in highest demand on the route to South Americas east coast, overtaking ethylene dichloride and caustic to Brazil. There have been no developments yet on the base oil possibilities to Brazil either.

Base oils are still under consideration to India and also the United Arab Emirates. The tender from Paulsboro, New Jersey, U.S., was however deferred, with loading now set for March 12-16. A small amount of prompt space still exists, but thereafter most of the regular carriers are looking at the second half of March dates, or even early April.

Europe

There is more prompt space than usual around the North Sea and Baltic, and the flow of spot market business appears more sedate. A few cargoes of urea ammonia nitrate, caustic and pyrolysis gasoline have been pushed around for another week, but this may have more to do with charterers looking to achieve rates that the owners are uncomfortable agreeing, rather than a shortage of space. Base oils have actually bucked the trend, and there have been more movements reported than normal.

Several base oil possibilities have been quoted this week to Morocco and the East Mediterranean. Chemicals demand seems to be pretty robust, and some cargoes, such as 3,000 tons of monoethylene glycol from Rotterdam to Tarragona, Spain, were still being quoted, even after being around for over a week. Shipments of paraxylene, orthoxylene, biodiesel, methanol, caustic, ammonia poly phosphate and acrylates were pending this week.

Pyrolysis gasoline is considered to be one of the more active grades on the northbound route this week, with shipments noted out of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and the Black Sea. A regular parcel of base oils was booked from Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. A requirement to ship 6,000 tons of biodiesel from Ravenna, Italy, to Rotterdam is a little out of the ordinary.

A greater number of prompt positions have been observed within the Mediterranean this week. Base oils have been noted, with shipments taking place to Turkey and North Africa, in particular. The Russian river systems are expected to open in April, and owners of ships that usually trade in these markets through the summer months are becoming more reluctant to send their ships too far out of the Black Sea at this time.

The transatlantic market has been a bit calmer over the past week. Pygas is still being fixed, and rates are the same, but there has been less paraxylene noted. A couple of traders are looking at the possibility of sending over toluene and xylene, and there has been some sulfuric acid from Aviles, Spain.

Markets to Asia have been understandably slow due to the impact of the Chinese New Year, but there is not a great deal of space for March anyway. A couple of base oil cargoes were circulated to Singapore, and small lots of butanediol and acrylonitrile have been recorded.

Small parcels of solvents and aromatics continue to be quoted to India, but there is an adequate number of vessels on berth, and rates appear unchanged.

Asia

The market for shipments within Asia is slow to resume after the Chinese New Year, and prompt ships have been seen in most locations. A few cargoes of methyl tertiarybutyl ether, ethylene dichloride, benzene and alpha olefins have been quoted for loading in the first half of March. Base oils were spotted from Japan to Singapore, and some large base oil movements have occurred the other way around, from Singapore up to China. Ten thousand tons MTBE is being loaded in Mailiao, Taiwan, for Southeast Asia for a rate of $250,000. Northbound traffic sees cargoes of methanol, pyrolysis gasoline, paraxylene, glycols, toluene and mixed aromatics.

Thanks to an oversupply of benzene in Asia, commodity prices have been falling, which has prompted a few traders to tinker with the idea of sending some to the U.S. Several ships still have the first half of March space, and rates could drop. The second half of March space is scarce, however, and should benzene take off then rates might quickly rebound. A large cargo of wax was apparently quoted to the U.S. Gulf for the end of March, and there has been talk of acetone parcels. A base oil cargo of 5,000 to 7,000 tons was heard quoted from Malacca, Malaysia, to Argentina, and a ship is believed to have fixed 2,000 to 3,000 tons base oils from Korea to Brazil. Much of the prompt space to Europe has now gone, leaving just a few ships for March. Cargoes of octene, acetic acid, vinyl acetate monomer and even styrene have been noted.

There is quite a lot of regional activity around India and the Middle East Gulf, but much of it is unlikely to pay top-tier freight rates. As such, there are quite a few requirements for clean petroleum, acid, caustic, ethylene dichloride, ethanol, MTBE aromatics and base oils. Eastbound is sluggish, with aromatics from Sikka, Mangalore and Haldia, India, among the most active of grades. Three thousand tons of base oils from Mumbai to Singapore was an interesting cargo quote. Westbound is flat, with few large requirements heard.

Adrian Brown is a senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London, can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor +44 12 0750 7507. Information about SSY can be found atwww.ssyonline.com. In the Houston office,Steve Rosenthalof SSY’s Chemical Tanker Department can be reached directly at +1 (713) 652-2700 and Jordi Maymi in Singapore can be reached at +65 6854-7127.

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