SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

A bit more business has been detected in the U.S. markets this week. Europe is steady, with freights roughly unchanged. Asian coastal markets are very much hand-to-mouth, however, with some freights starting to weaken.

U.S. Gulf

There has definitely been an increase in the number of inquiries to Asia along the Far East route. Some have been booked but not all have been firm, while on the tonnage supply side there are still quite a lot of ships that have April and May space. For now, rates are unchanged, but it will depend on how many of the requirements do firm up as to whether rates could bounce back. Fixtures over the course of the week include styrene, ethylbenzene, glycols, ethylene dichloride, paraxylene, normal butanol and tallow.

The Transatlantic route continues to generate a substantial amount of interest, which is being translated into a slight increase in freight levels. For instance, 5,000 tons of styrene from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam was reported to have gone in the high $40s per metric ton. Further shipments of styrene and ethylbenzene are being attempted, along with cumene, cyclohexane, diethylene glycol, biodiesel and vinyl acetate monomer. A cargo of base oils is being lined up for shipment to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam out of Port Arthur, Texas.

Awards have still to be reported openly on the various base oil and caustic tenders that were issued into the Caribbean last week. In addition, traders are competing for a small parcel of base oils into Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, for shipment out of the U.S. Gulf towards the end of April or early May. There seems to be space available on scheduled carriers, but there is not a great deal of tonnage around for outport destinations.

Trade has resumed on the route to the east coast of South America. Some ethanol was fixed to Brazil, and a large lot of styrene was done to Brazil too, with talk of a smaller parcel of 5,000 tons being booked on another ship. A large lot of ethylene dichloride and caustic appears to have concluded in the $60s/t. Equally, there has been some jostling for some of the prompt cargoes by owners, with 10,000 tons of urea ammonia nitrate being fixed to Brazil at $42-43/t, and some of the base oils to Brazil have also been seeing competitive levels. Base oils in the amount of 3,700 tons from Pascagoula, Mississippi, are understood to be loading in the low $60s/t, with a second similar parcel lined up for May shipment at the same terms. Seven thousand five hundred tons of base oils are to load from Houston to Brazil in mid-May, with rates reported to be in the low $60s/t.

There is some prompt space into India and the Middle East available, but apart from a possible 5,000 tons of styrene from Carville, Louisiana, to Kandla, India, most traders have moved their requirements into May, including several base oil shipments to India, one of which is for 12,000 tons, another for 5,000 tons, and one more for 2,000 tons to 4,000 tons. There is also a rather hopeful quote for 3,000 tons of base oils Houston to Mombasa, Kenya.

Europe

The North Sea and Baltic route is not especially busy, but nor are there lots of idle vessels around. The majority of owners have managed to maintain a forwards program of roughly five to ten days for all their ships, which ties in quite nicely with the dates for the majority of cargo requirements. Rates, therefore, tend to be unchanged. Base oils have again been a bit disappointing, with only a few spot movements into and out of the Baltic, and a couple more along the North Sea coast.

Southbound demand remains robust into the Mediterranean, or more specifically into the West Mediterranean and Iberian Peninsula, where parcels of base oil, biodiesel, methyl tertiarybutyl ether, caustic, ethanol and benzene have been noted. A few base oil opportunities have presented themselves into Turkey and North Africa. Rates are mostly unchanged, whichever destination.

Compared to the previous week, the northbound route has been marginally busier, but there should be sufficient vessels around that most requirements will be covered with ease. Base oils have been calm, with the only fixture being 5,500 tons from Italy to Rotterdam.

It has been another quiet week along the inter-Mediterranean route. Several base oil shipments took place from the West Mediterranean into Turkey and Israel, and there were some base oil shipments scheduled into Morocco and Algeria. Otherwise, biodiesel activity picked up fractionally, and bits of caustic, urea ammonia nitrate, vegetable oil and aromatics got done, but there are still quite a few prompt open positions around the Mediterranean area.

It has been another fairly encouraging week on the westbound service. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene was fixed from Rotterdam to the east coast of Mexico for $44/t, with a further 5,000 tons of paraxylene from Antwerp to the U.S. Atlantic Coast is going in the mid- to high $30s/t. Questions have been asked about possible benzene shipments from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf. Six thousand tons of pyrolysis gasoline was attempted into the Mississippi, but the buyers have deferred the purchase until June. Cargoes of sulphuric acid, urea ammonia nitrate, ammonium polyphosphate and caustic have been seen. Meanwhile, 7,500 tons of vegetable oil was fixed from Kaliningrad, Russia, to Cuba, and a base oils cargo was apparently fixed from the Baltic to West Africa.

There have been no major developments on the Far East route. Cargoes, which require May loading dates, have begun to appear, but not in enough volume to warrant an outsider going on berth. Five thousand tons of base oils from Rotterdam to Singapore was one of the larger inquiries, with small parcels of octene, butanediol and 2-ethylhexanol discussed.

Not much has changed into India and the Middle East Gulf either. Several ships have prompt completion space, both from the Mediterranean and the continent. Demand is focused primarily on small parcels of solvents and chemicals. Some base oils have been quoted to the Middle East Gulf and India, and there have been some fixtures of base oil to Karachi, Pakistan, and Aqaba, Jordan.

Asia

Several of the domestic routes that tend to provide a high level of demand, such as the intra-Far East route, have been much slower this week. A few cargoes of benzene, styrene and base oils have been seen looking to move to China from Korea, but the big paraxylene movements seem to have ceased. Bad weather in the area has caused the closure of some ports on the Yangtze River, China, but this is only a secondary issue. With Golden Week in Japan approaching, as well as the public holidays at the beginning of May, owners are having a hard time scheduling their ships. In turn, this has caused more space to become available on the southbound route as owners look to send their ships away from the poor-performing routes in the north. Three thousand tons of base oils were fixed from Korea to Manila, Philippines, with some more base oils moving from Korea to Singapore.

Space remains tight on the transpacific route through May and into June. Benzene has been fixed to the U.S. Gulf from Map Ta Phut, Thailand, and more benzene has been done from Korea. Rates are holding in the high $40s/t for 10,000-ton cargoes from Korea to the U.S. Gulf. There have been a number of requirements to Europe as well, which has supported a great deal of tonnage, both scheduled and unscheduled. Fifteen thousand tons of base oils were worked from Singapore to Rotterdam in the high $50s/t, and 10,000 tons of liquid paraffins from Bintulu, Malaysia, to Rotterdam are claimed to have been worked at around $80/t. Further shipments of biodiesel, vinyl acetate monomer, acetic acid, acrylates and isopar have been seen.

It does not seem as hectic on the regional markets this week along the India and Middle East Gulf route. That said, some charterers have been having great difficulty in getting ships to take their cargoes, especially of aromatics. Base oils have been moderately active, but there have been cargoes moving from all the main production centres this week. Eastbound demand remains firm, and space is tight, thanks to heavy contractual commitments. Base oils and rubber process oils are being attempted to Asia from the Middle East Gulf. Westbound remains active and space is limited. Numerous parcels of benzene are being attempted to both Europe and the United States from India, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

This story orginially appeared in the April 25 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.