SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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There have not been any particular developments in the different regions around the world. Activity levels remain subdued, and rates are soft all over.

U.S. Gulf

It seems to have been a week of watching and waiting, with few actual fixtures having taken place along the route into the Far East. Styrene has once again faded as traders look to selling product into Europe instead. A couple of large parcels of paraxylene were fixed to China, and it seems there has been some mixed xylenes booked in that direction as well. Ethylbenzene is also supposedly fixed to Asia. Ethanol is now being sourced from Brazil and Peru rather than from the U.S. Gulf. Rates stay largely unchanged in the high $40s, low $50s per metric ton for 5,000-ton parcels.

The eastbound transatlantic route is busier than all other routes out of the U.S. at the moment. A number of styrene cargoes are under offer. Cargoes of cumene, vinyl acetate monomer, cyclohexane and tall oil have been fixed, but strangest of all are reports of 5,000 tons of paraxylene being booked from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Two thousand, five hundred tons of base oils are known to have been fixed from Houston to Rotterdam. Further possibilities include lysine, ethylbenzene, metaxylene, used cooking oil, acrylonitrile and glycols. Rates are described as steady, with 5,000-ton parcels fetching high $40s/t, and maybe low $50s/t.

Several of the smaller ships that trade the Caribbean route waters report having filled for prompt loading. Traders continue to chase for ships to load 1,700 tons of base oils from Houston to Cartagena, Columbia, for the first half of mid-September, and there is still some caustic to be moved to Matanzas, Venezuela.

There has at last been a slight increase in demand along the route to the east coast of South America. Twelve thousand tons of caustic was fixed from Point Comfort, Texas, to Aratu, Brazil, and Santos, Brazil, or Paranagua, Brazil, for the first half of September at a rate said to be in the low $50s/t. Others are quoting 11,000 tons of caustic from Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Paranagua or Santos or Rio de Janeiro betweenSept. 20 and 30. Six thousand tons of base oils from Houston to Rio or Santos are looking to be covered, and 10,000 tons of paraxylene and 2,000 tons of acetic acid was booked from Houston to Suape, Brazil. The next requirement for 22,000 tons of styrene to Manaus, Brazil, requires end August tonnage. Between 2,000 and 3,000 tons of palm oil was quoted from Barranquilla, Colombia, to Santos, with a further 4,000 tons of vegetable oil quoted from New Orleans to Coronel, Chile.

The main interest on the India and Middle East Gulf route still seems to be ethanol, but seemingly also 5,000 tons of styrene was mentioned from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India.

Europe

Most North Sea and Baltic cargoes that were quoted during the week were for September lifting, which is unfortunate for the many vessels that are still open in August. The majority of prompt requirements have been for ethanol and biofuels again, with an occasional shipment of ethylene dichloride, base oil, pyrolysis gasoline, nonene and alkylate. Rates appear soft for any of the prompt movements, but if the number of September enquiries continues to build then rates may stabilize thereafter.

Southbound trade has been rather slow into the Mediterranean again. A little bit more volume has been spotted going to Turkey but the competition among owners is likely to produce some aggressive numbers. Parcels of FAME, aviation gasoline and caustic have been booked into the West Mediterranean, while 3,000 tons of FAME from Dordrecht, Netherlands, to Genoa, Italy, or Taranto, Italy, is believed to have achieved around $150,000 basis Genoa. The next lifting of linear alkyl benzene and paraffins from Kotka, Finland, to the west coast of Italy is ready for shipment mid-September.

There is a fair amount of space indicated as available this week along the northbound route, even on some of the scheduled carriers, suggesting contractual volumes may not be that strong for the end of August. Traders have been looking at sending 3,000 tons of base oils to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam from Greece. Three thousand tons of cyclohexanone was booked from Genoa to Hemiksem, Belgium, and 3,000 tons of benzene concluded from Lavera, France, to Aveiro, Portugal.

The intra-Mediterranean market is not busy, but owners are managing to stay one step ahead, and there are not many fully open ships in prompt positions. Biodiesel has had a reasonably active week, especially in and around Spain, including several cargoes to north Spain. Caustic too has given employment to a number of vessels, including cargoes to Ravenna, Italy, and Spain, with a further 5,000 tons booked from Lavera to Turkey. Four thousand, three hundred tons of easy chemicals from south Spain to Marmara, Turkey, ended up paying just under 35/t, while 2,500 tons of ethanol from south Spain to the west coast of Italy yielded low 50s/t, mainly due to vetting issues.

The flow of benzene on the westbound transatlantic route looks to have dried up for now, although with the styrene outage in Europe there will probably be a need to offload some more product soon. Five thousand tons of paraxylene was quoted from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, but was revised a few days later to include ports in Mexico. Fifteen thousand tons of urea ammonia nitrate was booked from Sillamae, Estonia, to Three Rivers, Canada, and there is talk of phosphoric acid having been booked from Jorf Lasfar, Morocco to the west coast of Central America. One thousand, six hundred tons of solvents were quoted from Fawley, United Kingdom, to the U.S. Atlantic Coast. There is virtually nothing quoted across from the Mediterranean, and with prompt space around some competitive deals could be obtainable.

There has been minimal interest in firming up any of the potential styrene or paraxylene possibilities to Asia. Otherwise, there is not a lot happening on the Far East route.

Traders continue to look at moving acrylonitrile into India from Continental Europe. Some hexane was investigated from Constanza, Romania, too. The 3,600 tons of base oils from Port Jerome, France, to Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, appear to have been transhipped from Rotterdam in the end.

Asia

The pattern of severe weather in the region continues yet again, with another four typhoons affecting mid China and closing down ports for days on end. Consequently, ships are finding it hard to maintain their schedules along the domestic Asia route, with the knock-on effect to subsequent voyages. As is always the case when bad weather strikes, space becomes tight but rates tend not to rise dramatically because owners are only too happy to accept replacement cargoes. Traders have been looking at sending base oils up to China from Thailand, but there is not an abundance of space since many ships are stuck up in the north. Base oils are being quoted from Thailand to Singapore, and also from Singapore back to Merak, Indonesia.

Activity on the transpacific export route has been slow on the back of the Asia Petrochemical Industry Conference event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and rates are weaker. Furthermore, benzene prices remain strong locally due to high demand, and exports are not possible to the U.S. Several of the ships that had been looking for chemicals ended up taking clean petroleum instead. A shipment of alkylate from Korea to the U.S. west coast was booked at $950,000 on a medium range, as guidance. The market to Europe is largely unchanged. A couple of ships have prompt space, but there are several prompt cargoes out of Southeast Asia, such as 6,000 tons of cyclohexane to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, with a further 7,000 to 9,000 tons of cyclohexane for September. Owners have also been double-handling the space and taking completion cargoes from India and the Middle East Gulf back to Europe instead at levels that are equivalent to loading from Asia. Seven thousand, eight hundred tons of base oils were spotted from Malacca, Malaysia, to Antwerp, and 7,000 tons of used cooking oil methyl ester was seen from Taichung, Taiwan, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

With Eid Mubarak taking place, business has been slow in the regional markets along the India and Middle East Gulf route. That said, there is a healthy flow of material into India currently, and some benzene and pyrolysis gasoline shipments back from India. Eastbound activity paused for the holidays, although there have been a number of significant methanol shipments, and methyl tertiarybutyl ether and ethylene dichloride cargoes have been seen too. Westbound has been quiet for the same reasons. Caustic and paraxylene are currently under consideration to the Mediterranean. Thirty-five thousand tons of MTBE was fixed from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to the U.K. continent options at $1.15 million.

This report was originally featured in the Aug. 29 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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