SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

Europe enjoyed a reasonably active week, and the United States is not a bad place for a ship to be seeking employment either. Asian markets, however, are still not fully functioning after the lunar holidays.

U.S. Gulf

The U.S. Gulf to Far East route is still heavily impacted by a lack of styrene. A couple traders have been seeking freight indications for styrene, but the lack of product and the anti-dumping duties in China are creating too much uncertainty for the business to flourish. Ethanol is being questioned from the U.S. Gulf and U.S. West Coast, but the cargoes could drift into April. Ethylene dichloride is unlikely to see much activity prior to April, leaving owners struggling to fill their last bits of March space. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene was allegedly fixed from Houston to China in the low $60s per metric ton, which demonstrates that rates have slipped further.

Business has rallied on the eastbound transatlantic route. Several cargoes of cyclohexane, for example, were circulated. Once again, 4,500 tons of vinyl acetate monomer is there to be shipped later in the month, and cumene is back for the first half of April. Some of the styrene and glycol requirements, however, bit the dust due to a lack of material. Ethanol, biodiesel and diethylene glycol possibilities have been seen, and a couple of small parcels of base oils were fixed, each being around 1,500 tons, with rates to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam being in the low $70s/t. Around 12,000 tons of base oils were seemingly fixed to Nigeria from Port Arthur and Houston.

Prompt space into the Caribbean is still pretty tight, meaning that few fixtures were actually recorded this week. Small parcels of chemicals, solvents and caustic are out looking for space, and 1,000 tons of base oils from Houston to Cartagena, Colombia, were also circulated.

Ethanol is by and large the most consistent of products moving southbound into the east coast of South America these days. Ten thousand tons of paraxylene was put on subjects to Suape, Brazil from Corpus Christi, Texas, and there have been some small parcels of base oils, olefins, glycols and palm oil seeking space into the east coast of South America. Freight levels are not as buoyant as during the period when caustic was flooding into Brazil.

March space into India and the Middle East Gulf is now pretty well gone, leaving just April carriers for any business still to be done. Base oils are not looking to ship these days.

Europe

Most ship owners report that cargo volumes into the North Sea and Baltic are up in March, which means that prompt space is fairly scarce. Rates generally remain in line with previous fixtures, although occasionally some of the prompt liftings have been taken at a premium above usual levels. Base oils have not been so busy out of the Baltic, whereas there has been a steady volume moving around Continental Europe and up into the Baltic.

Southbound demand has been quite strong into the Mediterranean, with a variety of products helping fill out those ships that have gone on berth. Rates are stable-to-firm. Base oils have been studied to Gebze, Turkey, from Le Havre, France, and there are some routine shipments to the East Mediterranean for the majors.

The flow of pyrolysis gasoline along the Northbound route has continued for another week, with fixtures reported from Spain, Portugal and France. Ten thousand tons of pyrolysis gasoline was also noted making its way to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam from Kulevi, Georgia, and a parcel of pyrolysis gasoline has been enquiring from Aliaga, Turkey. The cargo of base oils from Kavkaz, Russia, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam is believed to have been booked.

Strong demand for a wide range of products throughout the inter-Mediterranean route has coincided with a spell of bad weather and port closures, which has tightened up the amount of available tonnage. Rates have lifted slightly for some of these prompt requirements. Caustic has been very active in the region, with three to four cargoes moving from Lavera to Turkey, along with other caustic shipments from Port Said, Egypt, Kavkaz and Temryuk, Russia. Meanwhile, some caustic was fixed to Italy from Aliaga, Turkey, and another ship took 4,400 tons from Yuzhny, Ukraine, back to Lavera. Base oils have seen some opportunities too, with shipments to the usual East Mediterranean and North African destinations. Base oils have also been looking at shipping again out of Haifa, Israel, with a requirement noted to Turkey.

Transatlantic arbitrages are open for both toluene and mixed xylenes to the U.S., but it remains to be seen how much physical availability there is to actually go across. Paraxylene continues to get done. Five thousand tons of paraxylene from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast ended up paying in the low $40s/t, while more paraxylene is believed to be going from Kotka, Finland. Pyrolysis gasoline is only looking to ship from the Mediterranean and Black Sea across so far, while benzene has been attempted from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam and East Mediterranean to the U.S. Gulf. Twelve thousand tons of biodiesel was fixed from Havre, France, to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and the next requirement for April is already being circulated. Ten thousand tons of biodiesel was also fixed across from Hamburg. A couple of sulphuric acid shipments were fixed from Hamburg and Aviles, Spain, and urea ammonia nitrate has begun to move out of the Baltic into Canada. Strangest of all concerns base oils to Cuba, with the shipment of 7,500 tons from Livorno, Italy, being cancelled and then re-fixed by another account as 9,500 tons on a different ship.

The situation along the Far East route is largely unchanged this week. March space remains limited, but there are not so many cargoes being quoted that could challenge the existing rate structure.

Base oils are not that active into India and the Middle East Gulf currently, apart from the cargo that is believed fixed to Aqaba, Jordan, and instead there are shipments of solvents, hexane, solvent naphtha C9, aromatics and acrylonitrile. Rates are mostly unchanged.

Asia

Domestic demand continues to grow, but at a steady pace only, which has meant that there have been ships still needing prompt cargoes. Fortunately for them, most cargo quotations have been for March loading. Rates are generally unchanged across the board, but there are signs that the amount of prompt space is thinning which might cause a slight uptick in levels over the next week or so. Intra-Far East and northbound are the routes that will probably be the first to respond, but it is becoming clear there is not much space southbound for March either, with cargo inquiries only seeing one or two offers instead of the usual half-a-dozen. Base oils are notable on the southbound route. There have been some base oils quoted into China too from the usual Korean ports as well as Southeast Asia.

Space is fairly tight for the remainder of March on the transpacific export route. Cargoes of benzene, paraxylene and mixed xylenes are getting fixed quietly, and there are styrene parcels being loaded currently to the U.S. as well. March space is limited to Europe. Parcels of acid, biodiesel and solvents are steadily filling those ships that do make it on berth, but beyond that there is not a great deal to entice ships on the export route.

It has been a little busier in the regional markets into India and the Middle East Gulf this week after last weeks flat patch. Many requirements are mundane, however, and often involve owners calling at multiple ports. Berthing delays in the region have reduced, but owners are wary of adding too many port calls to their vessels itineraries. Eastbound is not massively active, but at least some base oil shipments have occurred. Methanol, methyl tertiarybutyl ether and aromatics feature heavily, with 10,000 tons paraxylene Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, to the Far East being fixed in the high $50s/t. Westbound is not particularly busy and several ships still have a few tanks remaining to fill. Some base oils were noted enquiring Sitra, Bahrain, to Rotterdam. Twelve thousand tons of benzene from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Houston fixed in the high $60s/t.

This report was orginally posted in the March 14 issue of Lube Report America.

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.