SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

With all the public holidays taking place around the world, business has been disjointed and difficult to conclude. The shipping market has suffered as a result, with all regions reported to be slower.

U.S. Gulf

The route into the Caribbean feels rather calm. There are a couple of ships around on prompt dates able to offer both coated and stainless tanks. A few prompt requirements of styrene, butanol, orthoxylene and caustic were seen into Mexico, and vegetable oil and molasses have been fairly prolific around the region. It is believed that dock activity at Intercontinental Terminals Company terminal 1 will be opening up in the first week of May, although rail transport remains inoperable and it is unclear when it will resume.

Ethanol has been quieter into Brazil, whereas caustic has been busier on the route into South America, with a couple of large requirements booked. The production of vegetable oil in Argentina is in full swing, with numerous export requirements quoted in all directions, and which might therefore lure more tonnage onto the southbound route and keep rates competitive.

There is not a great deal of prompt space remaining along the transatlantic route, and a couple of recent fixtures have yielded strong numbers. Rates in the mid- to high $50s per metric ton have been quoted for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam. Twelve thousand tons of molasses from the east coast of Mexico to Hull, England, went in the $50s/t too. Cargoes of styrene, cumene, ethanol, acetic acid, cyclohexane, glycols, orthoxylene, methanol, biodiesel, ethylbenzene and caustic form the majority of freight enquiries.

A couple of ships can still offer May space into Asia. Activity is subdued however. Several traders are looking at 15,000-ton cargoes of methyl tertiarybutyl ether to Singapore for May, and some paraxylene is being studied.

Further enquiries of ethanol have been quoted along the India and Middle East Gulf route, with levels for 15,000 tons to 25,000 tons lots being in the high $50s and low $60s/t, while full medium ranges are costing around $2 million. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene was worked from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India in the high $60s, low $70s/t. At least one of the base oil requirements to Mumbai was booked out of the U.S. Gulf, with several further enquiries noted.

Europe

The Easter holidays interrupted the smooth rhythm of the market, but it would seem that there is sufficient business around that most owners will have avoided having any prompt space on the North Sea and Baltic route. Biofuels and renewables have been leading the market in terms of volume, and there has been useful support from blending components such as MTBE, ETBE, C7 and pyrolysis gasoline. It has been a busy week or two for base oils, with a number of fixtures concluded out of the Baltic into the U.K. and Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Freights are generally tracking established levels without too much change being seen.

The southbound cargo list has been maintained, in spite of the holidays. Charterers with the typical 10,000 tons lots of biodiesel into the West Mediterranean have been struggling to find prompt space. Five thousand tons of styrene from Gonfreville, France, to Yumurtalik, Turkey, ended up on a much larger vessel in order to secure April space. The number of parcels in the 5,000 tons to 10,000 tons size range has been high, with fixtures seen that include ethylene dichloride, benzene, ethanol, MTBE, base oils, reformate, sulphuric acid, acetic acid and paraxylene.

Northbound owners have occasionally been finding it awkward to send their ships back up to Continental Europe. Ten thousand tons of isomerate was booked from Lavera, France, to Rotterdam, and several slugs of methanol were booked from Libya. Five thousand tons of caustic fixed from Lavera to Thames, U.K., and another 6,000 tons was done into Sweden, while 5,000 tons of ETBE went from Marseille-Fos, France, to Donges, France. A cargo of heavy aromatics was noted from Leixoes, Portugal, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam and a couple of larger cargoes of various chemicals were booked out of Spain to replace delayed contractual tonnage. Three thousand tons of base oils from Livorno, Italy, to La Rochelle, France, continue to be quoted in what appears to be a swap deal.

Bad weather in the West Mediterranean has disrupted sailing schedules and helped tighten tonnage availability on the inter-Mediterranean route. There also seems to have been an issue at Barcelona whereby some shipments got knocked back. With so many public holidays in the region over the course of the week, it is unsurprising to see an increase in the number of prompt vessels. Fortunately for owners, biofuels have been active. Clean petroleum has been flowing steadily into Morocco in small ships. Caustic has been plentiful out of France in many directions, while methanol has booked from Algeria and Libya to Mediterranean destinations. MTBE and ETBE have yielded a number of shipments into Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Romania and Libya. Base oils have assisted to a small degree, with several shipments into North Africa and Israel.

A quieter spot market on the transatlantic route has meant fewer outsiders risking going on berth to parcel up, which has meant that scheduled carriers have been able to keep rates at the status quo. Parcels of aniline, caustic, solvents and methanol have been booked into the U.S. A cargo of paraxylene was attempted to Charleston, South Carolina, but later diverted to the east coast of Mexico, and 12,000 tons of sulphuric acid was quoted from Hamburg to Savannah, Georgia, and a larger lot was quoted out of the Baltic for the first half of June. The opening of the Lakes has seen several cargoes of urea ammonia nitrate and gasoline booked into Canada.

Quite a few cargoes have been attempted along the Far East route over the past week, with paraxylene noted from Rotterdam and Kulevi, Georgia, a large lot of nitric acid from Antwerp, base oils to Singapore and China, acrylonitrile from Ventspils, Latvia, and an attempt to send ethylbenzene to China. 33,000 tons urea ammonia nitrate Sillamae, Estonia, to Kwinana, Australia, concluded in the low- to mid $50s/t.

There are plenty of ships on berth into India and the Middle East Gulf with part-cargo space remaining, which is pressurising freights. Some owners on the route to Asia are also completing with cargoes into the Middle East Gulf or India and thereby adding to the pressure. Aromatics, base oils, hexane, styrene and vegetable oils have been fixed.

Asia

It has been a slower week in NortheastAsia on the domestic route, with quite a few ships giving the same open positions as a week ago. The approaching Golden Week in Japan and various national holidays in the region probably account for some of the slowness, and it is still a period of refinery maintenance in the region too. Positive economic figures from China provide a crumb of comfort going forward, however. Southbound has seen some base oil activity, with cargoes noted from Korea into Southeast Asia, Singapore and the Philippines. Several charterers are competing to fix 5,000-ton parcels of pyrolysis gasoline from Mailiao, Taiwan, with some fixtures fetching mid- to high $30s/t. The northbound market is not quite as tight on space as it was earlier in the month. All the same, there are still quite a lot of cargoes being quoted in this direction. Several shipments each of 10,000 tons of paraxylene were quoted from Tuban, Indonesia, to China, and several cargoes of pyrolysis gasoline, mixed aromatics and MTBE continue to be quoted for yet another week without being covered. A few more prompt ships are noted in SoutheastAsia, but several cargoes ofmixed aromatics, benzene concentrate and pyrolysis gasoline have been repeatedly quoted, but as these are for the second half of May they are finding space hard to locate this early on.

May space is tight on the transpacific export route. Benzene is being attempted to the U.S. Gulf, and a couple of 5,000 tons enquiries of base oils have been seen from Onsan, Korea, and Mailiao to the U.S. Gulf. Sulphuric acid continues to fix to Chile. With clean petroleum is paying mid- to high $30s/t to U.S. from the west coast of Korea for 35,000 tons lots, owners are not under pressure to lower rate ideas. The market to Europe is also tight on May space, with biofuels, benzene and orthoxylene still quoted to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, along with many smaller parcels into the Mediterranean. Six thousand tons of aromatics from Southeast Asia to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam were worked at close to $100/t.

There has been a good level of demand in the regional market along the India and Middle East Gulf route. Requirements such as styrene, ethylene dichloride, butac, linear alkyl benzene and methanol from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to India appear to be difficult to cover on a prompt basis. Five thousand tons of pyrolysis gasoline fixed from Dahej, India, to Sohar, Oman, to be immediately followed with the next lifting later in May. Benzene continues to be quoted from Sohar to Shuaiba, Kuwait, while 15,000 tons of paraxylene was noted from Al Jubail to Haldia, India, and 15,000 tons of paraxylene was circulated from Sohar to Dahej. Base oils saw multiple fixtures out of Yanbu, Saudi Arabia,Jeddah,Saudi Arabia, Sitra, Bahrain, and Al Ruwais, U.A.E. Ramadan is due to commence May 5 and is expected to impact on the flow of cargoes. Eastbound is active and scheduled space is scarce. Various 10,000 tons to 15,000 tons requirements have been noted from Al Jubail, Sohar, Mesaieed, Qatar, Sikka and Mangalore, India, and Karachi, Pakistan. Westbound has generated a lot of small completion cargoes but not so many larger lots, but the shortage of space is keeping freights firm. Cargoes of benzene, acetic acid, vinyl acetate monomer, paraxylene, methanol and glycols have been noted.

This report was originally featured in the May 1 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.