The U.S. market is reasonably strong. Europe, on the other hand, is mostly soft with an excess of available space. Asia is now off celebrating the Chinese New Year, but had been fairly robust over the past week.
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With the onset of the Chinese New Year holidays, fewer new requirements surfaced along the Far East route this week. Some February space can still be secured, and at rates that are down from the peak levels seen in January. For example, 5,000-ton cargoes now command mid $60s per metric ton rather than high $60s/t. Styrene continues to be quoted by various traders, along with ethylbenzene. Paraxylene is under discussion too. Big slugs of methanol are known to be eliciting interest from the U.S. Gulf and Trinidad, especially given the uncertainty about loading from Jose, Venezuela. Twenty-five thousand cubic meters of ethanol was quoted from Clatskanie, Oregon, to Ulsan, South Korea, for the second half of March.
There is still a considerable amount of cargo moving eastbound, and rates remain firm along the transatlantic route. Ethanol continues to be sent across to Europe. A parcel of mixed xylenes was mentioned from Texas City to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and paraxylene is being investigated into Sines, Portugal, whether from Texas City or Corpus Christi. Three thousand tons of orthoxylene from Corpus Christi to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam is reckoned to have gone at $80/t. Traders have been pushing cargoes of ethylbenzene, cumene, used cooking oil and tall oil. Three thousand six hundred tons of base oils were quoted from Geismar, Louisiana, to Gebze, Turkey, while traders continue to look at styrene as well as monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol to Turkey, but with no scheduled space remaining into the Mediterranean for February, rates talked are at very high levels.
Prompt space remains tight into the Caribbean, and, for that reason, a cargo of 2,000 tons of caustic from Houston to Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, for the first half of February had to be withdrawn. Meanwhile, a second half of February requirement for 2,700 tons of caustic from Point Comfort to Rio Haina and Puerto Moin, Costa Rica, was covered. Eleven thousand tons of caustic was quoted from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Matanzas, Venezuela, for the second half of February, but it appears that the requirement will probably be delayed. Six thousand five hundred tons of methanol was seen from the U.S. Gulf to the east coast of Mexico, and 5,000 tons of paraxylene was quoted from Texas City to Altamira, Mexico. Meanwhile, 12,000 tons of molasses were seen from San Jose, Guatemala, to Vancouver, and 70,000 barrels of clean petroleum was circulated from Brownsville-Lake Charles to Altamira-Veracruz for prompt loading. Bad weather saw the Houston Ship Channel closed for several periods during the week and remains closed due to fog at the time of writing.
Ethanol continues to get fixed in varying quantities from the U.S. Gulf and Mississippi into a selection of Brazilian ports along the east coast of South American route. A large lot of ethanol was also mentioned from the U.S. Gulf to Peru for end of February. Three thousand five hundred tons of ethanol shipped St. Rose, Louisiana, to Buenaventura, Colombia. Caustic exports to Vila do Conde, Brazil, were looking almost as though they would restart after the importers had gained almost all the necessary approvals, but the latest tragic incident of a damn bursting in Brazil could defer the final approval. Six thousand tons of caustic was quoted from the U.S. Gulf to Munguba, Brazil, although there are rumours the cargo may be sourced from Aratu, Brazil, instead. Between 13,000 tons and 18,000 tons of ethylene dichloride was quoted from the U.S. Gulf to Maceio, Brazil and/or Aratu. Six thousand eight hundred tons of base oils were noted from the U.S. Gulf to Brazil, and traders were looking at possibly sourcing 4,000 tons of base oils in the U.S. Gulf for La Plata, Argentina, although were checking rates from the Mediterranean too.
Various parcels of ethanol, styrene and base oil continue to look for space from the U.S. Gulf to India. At least one large cargo of 15,000 tons of base oils was booked from Paulsboro, U.S., and the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India for a rate claimed to be $73/t. Ten thousand tons of styrene from Lake Charles to the west coast of India was reportedly fixed at $82/t for the first half of February, and 10,000 tons of paraxylene was attempted from Corpus Christi to the west coast of India for the first half of February.
The route into the North Sea and Baltic remains much quieter than usual for this time of year, and there are many open positions spread around over the next 7-10 days. There are parts of the Baltic, especially in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland where the ice belts are difficult to force, but Kotka, Finland, and Hamina, Finland, are still only showing the need for 1C ice-class and a minimum of 2,000 dwt. Ice is starting to build in the Kaliningrad area, and parts of the Bay of Riga, Latvia. Nevertheless, base oil exports have been brisk from the Baltic over the past couple of weeks.
Southbound cargo volumes are intermittent and seem to come in waves. Currently, there are several larger lots of biodiesel looking to go into Spain and France, with numbers roughly working out to 30/t for 5,000-ton quantities. A couple of styrene cargoes are quoted to Berre, Tunis and Barcelona. Caustic has been fixed from Antwerp to Ravenna, Italy, and 6,300 tons of base oils were booked from Rotterdam and Fawley, U.K., to Vado, Italy, with the next lifting already quoted to Vado for later in February. Five thousand tons of benzene was spotted from Terneuzen, Netherlands, to Huelva, Spain. Four thousand tons of caustic was noted from Rotterdam to Genoa, Italy. Three thousand six hundred tons of FAME from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Taranto, Italy, paid $175,000. Parcels of methyl tertiarybutyl ether and methanol have been looking to go into Portugal.
On the northbound route from the West Mediterranean there have been cargoes of FAME that have helped re-position ships back into northwestern Europe, while from the East Mediterranean there has been a possibility of methanol from Kulevi, Georgia. A cargo of between 12,000 tons and 15,000 tons of vegetable oil from the Black Sea to northwestern Europe is, however, finding it difficult to locate suitable tonnage off mid-February dates. Some C5 could be workable from Aliaga, Turkey, and 5,000 tons of benzene was seen from Aliaga, Turkey, to Aveiro, Portugal. An enquiry of 5,000 tons of acetone, cyclohexane and rubber process oil from Huelva to Antwerp was quickly covered. Several traders are again looking at 2,600 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Augusta, Sicily, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.
It has been another difficult week for owners running the Mediterranean services, and rates are known to be fiercely competitive. Four thousand five hundred tons of easy chemicals from the Spanish Mediterranean to the French Mediterranean were booked at less than $91,000 for example. Of some concern to owners is news that the Augusta refinery will undergo a maintenance stoppage, with some trains down from the second half of February until April, and others possibly longer. There is a knock-on effect too, with adjacent plants having no exports until March due to a shortage of feedstocks.
It has been a week of sporadic demand along the transatlantic route. A cargo of paraxylene that was quoted to Altamira, Mexico, was seemingly withdrawn, but later on another 10,000 tons of paraxylene was quoted from Rotterdam to Charleston, with yet a further 7,000 tons of paraxylene quoted to Charleston for later this month. The paraxylene possibility from Kotka, however, does not seem to have materialized. Traders have been looking at 5,000 tons of caustic from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Baltimore, and there is 20,000 tons of sulphuric acid being quoted from the Baltic, in addition to the cargo from Aviles, Spain. Seventeen thousand tons of calcium nitrate and adblue was reportedly covered from Sluiskil, the Netherlands, to the U.S. Atlantic Coast. A huge cargo of up to 24,000 tons of base oils was noted from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, presumably to Cuba and Venezuela, while 5,000 tons of acetone was seen from Huelva to Houston. Three thousand tons of aniline was noted from Rotterdam to Houston. The next shipment of acrylonitrile from Aliaga to Peru is being quoted, and 9,750 tons of normal paraffins are believed to have been covered from Algeciras, Spain, to Becancour, Canada. Twenty-five thousand tons of urea ammonia nitrate from Sillamae, Estonia, to the east coast of Canada for the second half of February remains uncovered, whereas several urea ammonia nitrate shipments were fixed to the U.S. from Novorossisk, Russia, with several more done from Sillamae, but which entail ice-class tonnage.
A bit of completion space remains on some of the Far East scheduled carriers, while an outsider is known to have gone on berth. Three thousand tons of octene fixed from Tarragona, Spain, to Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and some acrylonitrile was worked to Korea. More styrene and acetone cargoes have been noted, with a couple of them fixed. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene was heard from Rotterdam to the Far East. Parcels of monopropylene glycol, methyl ethyl ketone and butanediol remain uncovered. Two thousand five hundred tons of base oils were quoted from Antwerp to China, and 10,000 tons base oils were covered from Augusta to Singapore.
It has been a little busier along the route into India and the Middle East Gulf, with cargoes of styrene to the east and west coasts of India seen, and some base oils quoted to the Middle East Gulf and India out of the Baltic and Mediterranean, as well as parcels of butanols, butac, phosphoric acid and mixed xylenes quoted.
The start of the Lunar New Year celebrations has brought a halt to domestic activity, but until that point, the markets had been running quite well. There were enquiries right up until the last minute to ship products such as benzene, paraxylene, toluene, heavy aromatics, solvent naphtha C9, mixed xylenes and base oil within Northeast Asia. The southbound routes have been less productive, although there were enquiries to send base oils into Southeast Asia, and even one small lot to Australia, all from Korea. Northbound markets have been busy, with numerous enquiries to ship aromatics into China. Twenty-five thousand tons of base oils were quoted from Dumai, Indonesia, to Ulsan. Palm oil movements have naturally slowed to China, but India is looking quite encouraging again.
The transpacific export market is stable, with demand and supply finely balanced. Twenty-four thousand tons of benzene was worked from Korea to the U.S. Gulf in the mid $40s/t, but when the vessel dropped back the charterers were unable to locate another ship at the same numbers. Other traders are looking at benzene from Onsan, South Korea, to the U.S. Gulf, and there is 5,000 tons of acetone quoted from Yosu, South Korea, to Houston. Further cargoes of sulphuric acid have been fixed to Chile at around $70/t, but traders are complaining that with acid prices falling they cannot make these numbers work and are backing away from selling further cargoes.
The export market to Europe is tight and freights are firm. Nine thousand tons of used cooking oil fixed from Taizhou, China, and Nanjing, China, to Barcelona and Rotterdam at $84/t, the ship completing with 6,000 tons of the same grade from Pasir Gudang, Malaysia, to two ports along the east coast of the U.K. Two thousand five hundred tons of used cooking oil from Pasir Gudang to Rotterdam was booked in the $90s/t. Further parcels of used cooking oil, FAME, palm oil mill effluent and palm acid oil are quoted, and 2,800 tons of solvents fixed from Singapore to Rotterdam in the low $90s/t. Six thousand tons of base oils from Malacca, Malaysia, to Antwerp fetched low $70s/t, while others did 3,000 tons of base oils from Singapore to Rotterdam at $100/t and 2,000 tons of acetone from Singapore to Rotterdam at $95/t. Four thousand tons of cyclohexane was quoted from Maptaphut to Antwerp and the usual parcels of chemicals have been seen from China to Turkey.
There is still quite a lot going on in the regional markets along the India and Middle East Gulf route. Prompt requirements of pyrolysis gasoline, benzene and MTBE continue to be seen. Phosphoric acid is still looking to move from Aqaba, Jordan, to India as well as to Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Congestion at Al Jubail and Karachi, Pakistan, has become a cause of concern, which in Karachi, Pakistan, is costing up to 10 days waiting time due to jetty repairs. Eastbound business has slowed during the period of the Chinese New Year, and there are scheduled carriers that have February space. Parcels of methanol, caustic and paraxylene have been seen from the Middle East Gulf, and there are attempts again to ship canola oil from Jebel Ali to China. The flow of aromatics from India to Asia is impressive, with numerous requirements from Mangalore, India, Sikka, India, and Haldia, India. Westbound is steady. Several smaller vessels are around, as well as bits of space on specific trade lanes from scheduled carriers. Fifteen thousand tons of caustic looks to have been worked from Mesaieed, Qatar, to the Mediterranean. A small parcel of base oil was checking rates to Turkey from Al Ruwais, U.A.E. Owners generally have bullish freight ideas on westbound cargoes.
Adrian Brown is a senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London, can be reached email@example.com +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.