SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Business has picked up over the past week in Europe, but Asia is slow to gather momentum. The U.S. market is heavily committed to contracts, but less so for spot business. Space is tight all the same.

U.S. Gulf

There is not a lot of space left for loading along the Far East route this month, and contractual nominations for March are strong and expected to limit the amount of space for spot market material. Owners are shifting their rate ideas upwards towards $70 per metric ton for 5,000-ton quantities, though this level has not yet been achieved by owners. Styrene is among the cargoes most frequently seen, but traders are also eyeing possibilities of ethylbenzene. Between 5,000 tons and 10,000 tons of paraxylene was noted from Houston to Korea or Taiwan for end February or early March, and 40,000 tons of methanol was quoted from Geismar, or Point Lisas, Trinidad and Tobago, to the Far East. Ethanol is another grade that has aroused some interest from traders, and 10,000 tons of vegetable oil was quoted from New Orleans to Korea for mid-March.

Transatlantic demand appears to be stable and well-matched to the amount of space available. Ten thousand tons of caustic concluded from Freeport, U.S., to Kotka, Finland, for the first half of March. Eight thousand tons of cumene fixed from Pasadena, Texas, to Antwerp, with an expectation that there will be another shipment later this month, and 7,000 tons of caustic was heard quoting Point Comfort to Aveiro, Portugal, for prompt loading. A small parcel of diethylene glycol is claimed to have fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Turkey for end February, along with some styrene. Two thousand five hundred tons of methylene chloride has been seen from Geismar to Izmit, Turkey, and 2,500 tons of lysine from Houston to Tarragona, Spain, remains unfixed. Twelve thousand tons of base oils were booked from the U.S. Gulf to Lagos, Nigeria, for prompt loading, and 20,000 tons of caustic concluded from the U.S. Gulf to Conakry, Guinea.

Fog has continued to be a hindrance in Houston this week, causing the closure of the Ship Channel on several occasions. Prompt space into the Caribbean remains fairly tight. A requirement to ship 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons of methanol from Jose, Venezuela, to Houston off prompt dates seems to be in response to an existing booking going sour. Two thousand five hundred tons of pyrolysis gasoline was quoted from Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, to Houston for mid-March, and 1,000 tons of base oils were circulated from Houston to Cartagena, Spain, for the first half of March.

A couple of ships have been looking to track down prompt cargoes into Brazil, but there have also been a couple of prompt requirements, including 9,500 tons of multi-grade base oils from Houston to Brazil, and the requirement for 20,000 cubic meters of clean petroleum from Houston to Acu, Brazil, is still thought to be uncovered. Several shipments of ethanol have been booked into Brazil this week, and several further cargoes are under discussion.

The route into India has generated many cargoes this week, but there is not much space around unless a couple of outsiders come on berth. Ten thousand tons of ethylene dichloride has been talked from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India for March. Ten thousand tons of base oils were noted from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India for the first half of March, while other traders were pushing 4,500 tons of base oils from Houston to Mumbai for prompt, and others have 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons of base oils from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India for the first half of March. Ten thousand tons of mixed xylenes is rumored fixed from U.S. Gulf to Sikka, India, and 4,000 tons to 4,500 tons of smaller parcels were quoted from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India for prompt. Five thousand tons of styrene was seen from Carville, Louisiana, to Mumbai, while traders were pushing 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons of styrene from two ports in the U.S. Gulf to two ports in India-Pakistan range for March.


It has been a slightly improved week along the North Sea and Baltic route with a bit more demand around, and with more ships getting fixed towards the end of the month. Biofuels accounts for much of the renewed demand, but there have also been some irregular bits of business that have appeared out of the woodwork to help enliven the usual mundane cargo lists. More shipments than normal of urea ammonia nitrate, nutriox and adblue have been put in the spot market too. Base oils have been moving steadily down from the Baltic all month to the U.K. and Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, while a few small cargoes have been moved along the Channel coast as well as up into the Baltic. Owners seem less pressurized and rates have stopped falling.

There has been more cargo quoted southbound into the Mediterranean this week, helping rid the route of much of the excess prompt space. Styrene is believed to be fixing into Turkey, while several caustic fixtures were noted into the Mediterranean. FAME has been busier to all usual, and some not so usual, destinations. Base oils have been seen into Greece, Spain, Bulgaria and Italy. Paraxylene and acetic acid were booked into Sines, Portugal, benzene fixed into Huelva, Spain, from Immingham, U.K., and some magnesium ligno sulphonate was fixed into Turkey from Portugal.

Northbound cargo volumes are gradually returning to normal. A large cargo of naphtha, but which in reality is more likely to be pyrolysis gasoline was booked out of the Black Sea to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Six thousand tons of pyrolysis gasoline fixed from Rijeka, Croatia, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam and 4,000 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Augusta, Sicily, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam was covered in the $40s/t. Six thousand tons of pyrolysis gasoline was noted from Berre, France, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and 4,000 tons of pyrolysis gasoline was quoted from Tarragona to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Five thousand tons of benzene is still pushed around from Skikda, Algeria. Usual cargoes of FAME have helped fill space out of Spain.

An increase in the amount of FAME fixed this week has lifted the Mediterranean market and greatly reduced the amount of prompt tonnage that was kicking around along the inter-Mediterranean route. Rates are still depressed as owners are still several voyages away from feeling comfortable with their forwards program. A busier vegetable oil market has helped take away some of the idle tonnage in the Black Sea, but rates in this sector are still flat. Base oils are believed to have fixed to Egypt, Israel and Tunisia this week.

The amount of scheduled space available along the transatlantic route over the next couple of weeks has exceeded the amount of new cargoes quoted, and has caused rates to wilt. Pyrolysis gasoline seems to be the main contender for space now, with both paraxylene and caustic still considered a possibility. Seven thousand eight hundred tons of urea ammonia nitrate fixed from Heroya, Norway, to Tampa, and a large slug of sulphuric acid was covered from Hamburg to the U.S. Gulf at a level claimed to be $24/t. Three thousand tons of aniline seems to have fixed from Tees, U.K., to the U.S. Gulf. Another 3,000 tons of solvents were quoted from Rotterdam to Savannah, and a couple of small base oil parcels into the Caribbean have yet to fix.

Several ships heading to the Far East can offer March space, yet rate ideas remain strong. Styrene has been pushed around from several places, and a couple of base oil enquiries persist into Singapore. More acetone was covered into the Yangtze River, China, and a parcel of adiponitrile is believed fixed for March. Five thousand tons of paraxylene has been quoted from Rotterdam to the Far East, and traders have also expressed interest in combining paraxylene with styrene to form a larger cargo and, thus, reduce freight costs. Rates are effectively in the mid- to high $80s/t for 5,000-ton quantities from Rotterdam to Korea.

Activity levels along the India and Middle East Gulf route have subsided a bit since last week. Uncertainty surrounds some of the styrene and base oil shipments, for example, with U.S. supplies being regarded as more competitive. Small parcels of drilling fluid, butanols, glycol ethers and ethyl acetate have been seen, and a parcel of base oils was quoted from Kavkaz, Russia, to the United Arab Emirates.


The domestic market is showing signs of life following the lunar holidays. A few ships are caught in prompt open positions, but the majority has made it through to the last week of February and, in many cases, owners are only showing the first half of March space. Lengthy berthing delays in Korea are causing concern and have the effect of tightening space. Aromatics are busier northbound, with several paraxylene fixtures seen from Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, with further cargoes quoted. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene reportedly combined with 7,000 tons of acetone from two ports in Thailand to two ports in mid-China and Yangtze in the high $30s/t. Shipments of base oils, rubber process oil, 2-ethylhexanol, cyclohexane, acetone and molasses have been worked or put on subjects. A fresh batch of paraxylene, benzene, pyrolysis gasoline, heart-cut benzene and benzene concentrate cargoes have been seen this week.

There has been a little bit of prompt space on the transpacific export route, but owners believe that rates for 5,000-ton parcels from Korea to Houston ought to be close to $60/t, which is a hefty increase. Part of the reason that space is scarce is because larger vessels still favor the clean petroleum market, even though rates are down by a dollar or so. Six thousand tons of toluene was noted from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to the U.S. Gulf, and there has still been talk of benzene from Korea to the U.S. Gulf that has not been covered. Paraxylene too has been mentioned, and cargoes of acetone and pyrolysis gasoline have been heard. The market to Europe is still busy with a wide variety of biodiesel products and feedstocks, the rates for which seem stable in the $80s for quantities between 3,500 tons and 6,000 tons from Southeast Asia. There are some smaller vessels around that are looking for re-positioning cargoes back to Europe, as well as space on scheduled carriers which might keep rates from firming.

Demand remains intense in the regional markets along the India and Middle East Gulf route, with a shortage of space noted. India continues to import a lot of material from the Middle East Gulf and Red Sea, as well as ship back parcels of methyl tertiarybutyl ether, pyrolysis gasoline, benzene and paraxylene. A shipment of base oils took place from Hazira, India, and Pipavav, India, to Ras Al Khair, Saudi Arabia, while base oils continue to fix to India from Yanbu and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Al Ruwais, U.A.E. and Sitra, Bahrain. Eastbound remains firm, with 16,500 tons of two to three grades of chemicals claimed fixed from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Southeast Asia at $42/t. Rates well into the $50s/t have been recorded for similar volumes to Northeast Asia. On the westbound route, several small ships have slipped on berth almost undetected, taking what appears to be caustic, styrene and glycols. Requirements of benzene, methanol, ethanol and paraxylene are also noted. Between 5,000 tons and 6,000 tons of base oils were enquiring from Sitra to Gebze, Turkey, and Rotterdam, with 6,000 tons to 8,000 tons of base oil quoted from Ruwais to northwestern Europe.

This report was originally featured in the Feb. 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 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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