SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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The markets in the United States and Asia both remain soft amid weak demand. European markets are relatively upbeat in comparison.

U.S. Gulf

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Styrene has been one of the main items on what is otherwise a fairly sluggish Far East trade lane, with at least three cargoes each of 5,000 tons having been booked. A couple of traders are toying with parcels of ethylbenzene too, but that grade could go to Europe instead. A large cargo of ethanol to China is another possibility, but otherwise there is not a lot of cargo for owners to chase.

The choice of transatlantic cargoes to Europe is more diverse, but at the same time there are a number of potential carriers open in the area. As mentioned, ethylbenzene is being attempted, and there are enquiries for glycol, methanol, vinyl acetate monomer, butanol, caustic and fish oil. Sixteen thousand tons of crude tall oil was also noted from the U.S. Gulf to Rotterdam and Finland. Rates are roughly mid $40s per metric ton for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam, but some discounting may be possible should the cargo fit the vessels dates.

There has not been a great deal happening into the Caribbean. A couple of tenders for caustic and ethanol are outstanding, and there is a selection of vegetable oil to various destinations, but base oil has generally been scarce.

Ethanol has been the primary grade moving south along the east coast of South America route over the past couple of weeks. Some base oil activity has been recorded into Brazil, and traders are looking at a combination of 10,000 tons of paraxylene and 2,500 tons of acetic acid to Suape, Brazil, for which owners are indicating mid $40s/t.

With the exception of a couple of small base oil enquiries to India, the only other grades that have attracted some attention from traders along the route into India and the Middle East Gulf recently have been ethanol and ethylene dichloride.

Europe

The North Sea and Baltic area continues to produce a steady volume of demand that is keeping rates on a stable, or even slightly firmer, footing. Biodiesel and ethanol are particularly busy. It is notable that some cargoes have taken several days before being covered, illustrating the strength in demand for space. Base oils have been fairly active, with several shipments from Kaliningrad, Russia, and Riga, Latvia, as well as the usual movements along the North Sea coasts.

Southbound demand has been buoyant into the Mediterranean, with a variety of grades being fixed. Base oils have also been moving, with several shipments from the Baltic to Turkey and Israel, as well as a cargo from Rotterdam to Greece that took a little while to fix. Rates are not zooming up, but they are firm nonetheless.

Northbound space is well-balanced on the routes up to northwestern Europe. Owners invariably have a choice of cargoes to aim for, and so numbers are more or less unchanged as a result.

Heavy demand for biodiesel within the Mediterranean ensures that there are relatively few idle vessels, and rates are judged to be stable. Base oils have been pretty active, with several shipments from Livorno, Italy, several more from Cartagena, Colombia, and one or two more from Greece.

Rates have dipped slightly on the westbound transatlantic route as demand has lessened. There is still interest in shipping paraxylene and some grades of aromatics. Sulphuric acid has been noted too, as well as some wax. Between 8,000 tons and 9,000 tons of base oils from Hamburg to the U.S. Gulf are understood to have fixed for around $57/t.

The market out to Asia is felt to have picked up slightly, with owners noticing an increase in the number of small specialized chemical parcels in the 1,000 tons to 3,000 tons range. Interestingly, styrene has been fixed out to Asia from Europe. Space is generally becoming tight for end June loading.

There is a steady flow of small chemical grades out to India these days, including parcels of acrylonitrile, hexane, styrene, aromatics and so on. Base oils have been somewhat calm along the India and Middle East Gulf route, though.

Asia

Domestic demand remains thin throughout the Asian market, partly because of national holidays in several countries, but also partly due to the heavy refinery turnaround season that is taking place and therefore limiting the amount of new business coming through. Overall, space is readily available for June loading, although it must be said that a fair number of vessels have managed to fix well ahead into July as well. Rates are more or less static, unless there is a cargo that several owners particularly want, in which case aggressive rates might be obtained. Base oils are moving fairly well between the regions, but not on any great scale.

Space for June loading on the Transpacific export route has virtually all gone, and the little space that remains is priced at substantially more than the usual low- to mid $50s/t for 5,000-ton parcels from Ulsan, South Korea, to Houston. Traders are already asking about space for loading benzene in July, for cargoes anywhere from 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons. Three thousand tons of base oils are being quoted from Singapore to Brazil. Nothing much has changed on the route to Europe. The remaining June loaders have been steadily filling, and no newcomers have come on berth. Biodiesel is the main item, with some very big cargoes noted. Between 3,000 tons and 4,000 tons of base oils were noted fixed Pyongtaek, South Korea, to Haifa, Israel.

Due to the Eid Al Fitr celebrations, much of the regional trade along the India and Middle East Gulf routes has been slower than usual. All the same, base oils have been moving steadily into India and the United Arab Emirates from both the Middle East Gulf as well as Red Sea. On the Eastbound route, large amounts of glycol and aromatics have been booked to Asia from India, and base oils have also been busily moving from the Middle East Gulf to China. Westbound has been active, with at least five to six ships fixed with benzene from India and the Middle East Gulf to Europe and the U.S. Gulf. Traders are also studying paraxylene and methanol to Europe.

This report originally appeared in the June 20 edition of Lube report Americas.

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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