SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The volume of trade around the globe remains disappointingly slow, with none of the main trading areas in the Americas, Asia or Europe faring particularly well at the moment.

U.S. Gulf

There has been so much uncertainty regarding the trade war between the United States and China, with tit-for-tat tariff increases, for buyers and sellers to be truly comfortable with the situation. A few styrene deals are getting done along the Far East route, although mostly to Korea or Taiwan and not to China directly, and some ethanol has been seen to Southeast Asia. A few parcels of glycol and phenol have also been accomplished. Rates are rumoured to have been as low as $42 per metric ton on one shipment of 5,000 tons, but rates of $48-49/t are also being achieved.

The transatlantic route is perhaps the brightest of the U.S. routes. Some believe that demand has faltered, but a little digging shows the volumes are still there. Several small parcels of ethanol were fixed across for September, with fresh enquiries noted for October. Several cargoes of ethylbenzene were done, again with several more pending. A couple of used cooking oil parcels were fixed from Tampa and New Orleans, and 12,000 tons of crude tall oil was done from Mobile, Tennessee to the Baltic. Four thousand tons of tallow concluded from Houston to Casablanca, Morocco. Several large lots of methanol were fixed out of the Mississippi and Beaumont. Nine thousand tons of cumene was fixed from Houston to Antwerp in the upper $30s/t, and 24,000 tons of caustic and ethylene dichloride was covered from the U.S. Gulf to the Mediterranean, allegedly in the low $40s/t, following a shipment that was fixed earlier in the month. Three parcels of metaxylene were booked into Algeciras, Spain, with the next lot to be lifted in October. More vinyl acetate monomer is quoted from Houston to Antwerp. Five thousand tons of paraxylene is looking for space from Houston to Sines, Portugal, or Algeciras. Several small base oil shipments were made, one from Houston and the other from Curacao.

There really is not a great deal happening in the parcels trade into the Caribbean. There has been a tender for 1,000 tons to 2,000 tons base oils into Guayaquil, Ecuador, for October, and a few caustic parcels were noted this week, but not a great deal else.

On the tender front, there is a new tender for 5,000 tons of ethylbenzene to Argentina for November along the route into the east coast of South America, while the tender for 10,000 tons of ethylene dichloride to Maceio, Brazil, was awarded, with cargo stemmed out of Point Comfort, Texas, at a rate said to be in the high $40s or low $50s/t. Interestingly, it would seem as though a parcel of base oils may have been fixed into the Mediterranean from Rio de Janeiro, with another cargo quoted to the East Mediterranean for October.

A cargo of around 7,000 tons of base oils from the U.S. Gulf to Mumbai lifted subjects for loading at the end of the month along the India and Middle East Gulf route. A further shipment of 10,000 tons to 12,000 tons of base oils was quoted from Paulsboro, U.S., to the west coast of India for October. Eighteen thousand cubic meters of ethanol was fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Mumbai, with further ethanol possibilities noted for end September and October. Finally, traders have been toying with 10,000 tons of styrene to India.


There are many vessels around that have still to cover the remaining days in September, which is creating a very competitive environment along the North Sea and Baltic route. Biodiesel and ethanol have been the top-performing commodities this week, aided to some extent by gasoline components, which is a little unusual for the time of year. Base oils have been trickling down from the Baltic, and there have also been some spot sales up into the Baltic.

There is still not a great deal of action southbound into Turkey, apart from some contractual base oil shipments. Owners are instead looking at ways to fix their ships into the West Mediterranean and then take cargoes from there into the East Mediterranean and Black Sea. Biodiesel has lent itself to such efforts, with a couple of somewhat large movements into Spain and France, and some smaller movements into Italy. Fifteen thousand tons of FAME was also quoted from Rotterdam to Constanza, Romania. A small parcel of base oil has been attempted from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Mohammedia, Morocco.

Spot demand on northbound routes has been steady, and rates are at usual levels. A couple of Italian pyrolysis gasoline possibilities were noted, and 6,000 tons pyrolysis gasoline finally fixed Berre to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. 15,000 tons C7 has been under discussion from Lavera, and some pyrolysis gasoline and to or naphtha grades have been seen from the Black Sea. Apart from the usual base oil shipments Augusta, Sicily, to Rotterdam and Cartagena to La Pallice, there has been some interest in spot base oil volumes from Greece and Cartagena.

There is not a great deal happening in the Mediterranean either, with many ships open before the end of the month. Biodiesel has been a life-saver for many owners, providing employment in the West Mediterranean, but also with several movements out of the Black Sea too. Base oils have seen a mix of term shipments, as well as spot sales, although nothing out of the ordinary.

Traders have been looking at benzene westbound along the transatlantic route, although not a great deal seems to have come out of it so far. There has, however, been some more paraxylene and toluene going over, and a parcel of mixed xylenes was under discussion too. A small cargo of ethyl tertiary butyl ether concluded from Rotterdam to Houston, and some acetone was booked from Huelva, Spain, with further enquiries noted from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Traders have been evaluating the most cost-effective way of sending 4,000 tons of caustic to Port Hawkesbury, Canada, and are comparing supply from Rotterdam with supply from the U.S. Gulf. A small parcel of base oils was quoted from Antwerp to Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, which is a trip more readily associated with U.S. Gulf supply.

Styrene continues to be quoted to Asia, and there have been a couple of base oil enquiries to Singapore and China. The parcel of rubber process oils from Hamburg was also booked. Space generally remains tight, and it is interesting to see a ship owner considering sending a vessel out to Asia via India at the end of September.

There are still too many vessels clustered in Europe on prompt dates, and with not so many possible cargoes, some of these vessels along the India and Middle East Gulf route will have to find other things to do.


With several Asian countries celebrating the mid-autumn festival, it was always going to be a quiet period on the domestic route. Chinese imports of aromatics especially have slowed, although a perusal of the port lists reveal row after row of ships arriving with cargoes of paraxylene, benzene and glycol, most of which are contractual. Base oil volumes have been fairly constant, with movements taking place both northbound and southbound. A certain amount of base oil is being shipped locally from Korea and Japan into China too. The next typhoon, Trami, is gathering speed, but at this stage looks as though it will remain at sea and not make landfall.

Benzene demand is slack on the transpacific export route, with European product currently the preferred option. Several traders are contemplating sending mixed xylenes and paraxylene to the U.S. for October, but this has yet to materialize. Twenty-four thousand tons of base oils were quoted from Singapore to Rotterdam and Houston, perhaps looking to emulate the success of the combined shipment earlier this month, but has since been split into two, with the early October portion slated to go to Rotterdam, and the later October cargo to head to the U.S. Gulf. Apart from biodiesel and used cooking oil, the market to Europe is rather featureless, but what that does mean is that owners are cautious about committing tonnage, and so, therefore, rates are sustained.

There is not a great amount of prompt space remaining in the regional markets, whereas demand is fairly strong along the route into India and the Middle East Gulf. Base oils are moving quite freely out of the Red Sea, Al Ruwais, U.A.E., Sitra, Bahrain, Karachi, Pakistan, and Iran, with some of the rates from the Red Sea to India climbing into the $40s/t. Eastbound is active, with plenty of methyl tertiary butyl ether and methanol supplementing the big lots of benzene, paraxylene and orthoxylene from India and the Middle East Gulf. Traders are also looking at base oils from the Middle East Gulf to Asia. Westbound is steady, with not a great choice of tonnage on berth with space. Caustic, glycols, vinyl acetate monomer, benzene and acrylates have been seen to Europe, as well as some benzene possibilities to the U.S.

This report was originally featured in the Sep. 26 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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