SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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The European market fell away again quite quickly last week. The United States remains tight, and a few routes are attracting higher freight levels. Asia had another busy week in the run-up to the lunar holidays.

U.S. Gulf

Traders along the Far East trading route are starting to look at February space now that January is all accounted for. Some more styrene has been booked from the U.S. Gulf, as has 10,000 tons of paraxylene. Some large ethanol cargoes had been noted too last week. Three thousand tons of base oils were quoted from Houston to Singapore, possibly naphthenic grades. Freight levels appear to be notionally unchanged.

Activity has increased on the eastbound transatlantic route, and the couple of owners who decided to hold onto January space are likely going to be rewarded with large premiums above the standard $50 per metric ton or so that would otherwise apply. Styrene has apparently been surpassed by ethanol, of which numerous requirements have been heard. Several ships are heading up into the Baltic with caustic, and another has a cargo of tall oil. Ethyl benzene, vinyl acetate monomer, cumene, phenol, biodiesel and urea ammonia nitrate have joined the fray, while into the Mediterranean there are still cargoes of glycol, styrene, orthoxylene, cumene, ethylene dichloride, caustic, as well some interest in sending small lots of base oil to Greece.

It has been a touch quieter in the Caribbean, but that might also be a function of the tight space situation which still existed last week. Rates into Mexico have picked up, with a couple of shipments each of 10,000 tons of paraxylene from the U.S. Gulf, the rates for which are understood to be in the low $20s/t. The usual mix of ethanol, caustic and vegetable oil prevails.

Aside from the normal movements of ethanol into Brazil, last week the route into the east coast of South America had seen traders take an interest in placing styrene into Brazil too. Several small lots of naphtha and clean petroleum are being quoted into Brazil.

Some of the owners who do have February space into India have been targeting base oils to India, throwing some very high levels at the cargoes from Paulsboro, U.S., and Houston. Rates do seem to have firmed on the route, as some 5,000-ton parcels of styrene from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India have been heard fixed in the low $80s/t. In addition, there are some cargoes of glycol, acrylonitrile and ethanol seeking space.

Europe

If there was any respite for owners along the North Sea and Baltic route, it was very brief since most ships now have barely more than a few days employment in hand, with only a few fortunate ships fixed through into February so far. A couple of base oil fixtures were recorded out of the Baltic, with several more enquiries outstanding. The clean petroleum tanker sector is performing adequately for ships in the intermediate size group, but smaller vessels are taking a beating. Water levels in the Rhine are not expected to recover much before March, according to owners.

Southbound volumes are flowing a little more freely into the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but some owners still have prompt space to fill. Freight levels are weak. For example 5,500 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Dunkirk, France, to Priolo, Italy, achieved around 180,000, which is lower than usual. Some large FAME shipments were booked, including 10,000 tons from Stanlow, United Kingdom, to Huelva, Spain, and 10,000 tons from Rotterdam to Varna, Bulgaria. Caustic was fixed into Spain, Italy and Turkey. Base oil activity had been thin last week.

Northbound, more pyrolysis gasoline has been talked from Aliaga to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, as well as a small lot from Berre, France, with a possibility of pyrolysis gasoline from the Black Sea, to be combined with a slug of methanol. Three thousand tons of base oils fixed from Spain to Biscay, France, but at a lower level than previously. Eight thousand tons of alkylate and pyrolysis gasoline was booked from Augusta, Sicily, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and a couple of acetic acid parcels were fixed from Kavkaz, Russia, and Bar, Montenegro. A fire at a refinery in Priolo appears to have disrupted some potential northbound cargoes, but equally has created some import possibilities instead.

Due to the fire at Priolo, benzene has been quoted into Priolo from various places within the Mediterranean and Black Sea, with some 4,000 tons already fixed from Aliaga, Turkey. Beyond that, however, the Mediterranean has been dull, and even the usual biodiesel movements have been fewer in number. A couple of methyl tertiarybutyl ether requirements were covered into Greece and Italy, and two urea ammonia nitrate shipments were booked to Spain from Constanza, Romania, and Damietta, Egypt. A couple of caustic shipments were booked out of Spain, France and Egypt, and a small styrene cargo is understood to have fixed from Tarragona to Turkey. A small parcel of base oil fixed from Greece to Turkey, while more base oil was booked from Spain to Israel and from Livorno, Italy, to Rades, Tunisia.

No great changes to report on the westbound transatlantic route. Traders are still sending paraxylene across, although some have now started to ask for options to Suape, Brazil, instead. Some 5,000 tons of MTBE was booked from Rotterdam to Houston, with levels in the high $30s/t rumoured. Following the fixture of 2,500 tons of wax from Augusta to Baton Rouge, which went for around $220/t, a larger lot of wax was quoted from Fawley, U.K. There is also a possible pyrolysis gasoline requirement from Fawley to the U.S. Gulf. Some small parcels of aniline have been discussed into the U.S. Gulf, with possibly one fixed in the meantime. There still seems to be interest in sending base oils from Europe into the Caribbean.

So far, there is not much additional space tempted to go on berth to Asia, so rates are holding. There were several cargoes of styrene under discussion to Asia last week, and 10,000 tons of lard from Rotterdam to Singapore is back on the menu. A large cargo of base oils was quoted from Kavkaz to Singapore and is understood to have been booked meantime.

Further styrene possibilities into India and the Middle East Gulf had been noted last week, as well as some benzene, toulene, and xylene from Rotterdam. More acrylonitrile was heard fixed from the Baltic with transhipment through Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and traders are also competing for a stem of acrylonitrile in Aliaga, Turkey. Three thousand five hundred tons of hexane from Constanza to Kandla, India, fetched high $80s/t. An uncommon requirement to ship 1,500 tons to 3,000 tons of base oils from Aliaga to Fujairah, U.A.E. seems to have been fixed, while a further 5,800 tons of base oils from Kaliningrad, Russia, to Hamriyah, U.A.E., were noted enquiring for space.

Asia

In general, most ships have covered all their remaining January space throughout the region along the domestic route. Some charterers however are still intent on ensuring they move their cargoes over the next week or so, before the start of the Chinese New Year, which has seen some requirements quoted repeatedly and almost frantically. Undoubtedly, some freight levels have risen because of this. Last week had also seen enquiries that overlap the holiday period, for which owners will be most thankful, as well as for shipment later in February, which should keep freights on a firm footing until after the lunar holidays. Whilst most requirements are for chemicals, there is a good showing of base oil demand, with cargoes noted into China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. Three thousand five hundred tons of base oils from Malacca, Malaysia, to North China paid mid $60s/t, which reflects owners reluctance to go to North China at this time of year, where bad weather can cause substantial delays.

Benzene has reappeared on the transpacific export route from Korea, but otherwise demand seems limited to small parcels of solvents. Rates are maintained however, thanks to the firm tendency in the clean petroleum market. There are numerous small parcels of biodiesel quoted back to Europe. In addition, several parcels of base oil have been seen from Singapore and Malacca. Owners still have strong freight ideas.

It remains busy in the regional trades along the India and Middle East Gulf route, yet more base oils were booked from Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, to Mumbai, with another phosphoric acid shipment covered from Aqaba. One thousand tons of linear alkyl benzene was booked from Mesaieed, Qatar, to Mundra, India, at $55,000. Eastbound has produced many new requirements, as well as a bunch of older ones struggling to find space. Loading dates are being stretched in some cases to entice offers. Base oils seem to be moving steadily from Al Ruwais, U.A.E., to China, with new requirements noted for both early and late February. Cargoes of ethanol, styrene, methanol, paraxylene, orthoxylene, benzene and glycols have been noted. Westbound remains tight and rates are firm. Ten thousand tons of benzene fixed from India to the Mediterranean in the high $50s/t, while 24,000 tons was fixed in the low $50s/t. Twenty-four thousand tons of benzene from two ports in India to the U.S. Gulf went in the low $50s/t. Benzene has also been quoted from Shuaiba, Kuwait, to northwestern Europe.

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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