SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


There is still a lot of cargo being generated globally, but rather alarmingly there is not that much so far that requires April shipment. It may be due to new pricing for the second quarter, for which discussions will only commence at the end of March at the NPRA petrochemical conference in San Antonio, Texas. The dates are uncomfortably close to the Easter holidays too.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
The situation in the U.S. Gulf is much the same as before. Prompt space is very scarce, especially on ships that are fully open. However, there are a couple of vessels showing up in the last ten days of March. The way it looks at the moment is that transatlantic eastbound will snap them up.

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Ethanol is the big thing from the United States – 10,000 ton cargoes from New York to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam have been fetching in the low $50s/t, and 6,000 tons of ethanol from the U.S. Gulf to Lagos went for $400,000, a useful benchmark figure for base oils. Styrene too is talked about eastbound, but nothing has really firmed so far.

The U.S. Gulf to the Caribbean sees pockets of open space, but in essence March is booked out.

The U.S. Gulf to Brazil does not see much open space either until really the end of March. A 5,000 ton cargo of base oils from Houston to northern Brazil will likely cost close to $50/t for those quick enough to book the space. Delaying a week will necessitate an April loader.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East is deceptive. There are some ships with March space for specific ports, and a 5,000 ton requirement could cost as little as mid-$50s/t, but it could also cost $70/t. We have seen rates mentioned to Singapore, for instance, at this level. We believe that to Ulsan, for example, something around $55/t may be achievable.

U.S. Gulf-to-India is pretty active with sufficient cargoes to draw on berth several ships in addition to the couple of ships already scheduled on this route.Rates are generally holding at around $90/t for 5,000 tons from Houston to Mumbai.

Some of the European coastal routes appear to have slackened over the week, allowing rather more open positions than we have seen for some time. In Northwest Europe and the Baltic, the clean petroleum products market is definitely softer, and this has induced a number of owners to think about repositioning vessels away from the area, perhaps down to the Mediterranean, or over to the States.

The same is true in the Mediterranean, although here owners are finding better alternatives, such as vegetable oils and oil cargoes in the Black Sea.

The trade of base oils into Turkey has been questioned in the Turkish media, with suggestions that the volume of imports exceeds demand by some 500,000 tons. When this has occurred in the past, there has usually been a crackdown on imports for non-lubricant use by the authorities.

Transatlantic westbound has seen desultory cargoes of pyrolysis gas and caustic, but nothing of any great significance. Nonetheless, apart from a batch of prompt ships, space tends to be on the tight side.

Mediterranean-to-U.S. too is lacking prompt open positions, and we have seen rates of mid-$80s/t paid for 4,000 tons of chemicals from the Mediterranean to the east coast of Mexico.

Going to Asia, all the focus is on prompt cargo, which means that March is tight. April however is very different, and at this stage there are plenty of open positions. India is tight too – 4,000 tons of base oils from the western Mediterranean to Mumbai saw charterers countering at $90/t.

Asian domestic markets are blessed with a healthy mix of open ships and firm cargoes, creating a busy atmosphere but one in which it is possible to find the right kind of vessel at the right kind of freight to please both ship owners and charterers alike.

Export business to Europe and the U.S. is steady but not exhilarating, which means that some of the ships open end March might start to become wary about being open with nothing to do. Rates into the U.S. Gulf are still holding at around $50 to $55/t for 5,000 ton cargoes, but are some $20/t more expensive to ship to Rotterdam. Aside from contractual demand, the majority of the requirements are composed of palm oil and biodiesel cargoes.

India and the Middle East Gulf region are very busy with a great deal of business quoted. Rates are stable to firm for most directions.

Adrian Brown is senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London. Information about SSY can be found at Adrian Brown, in the U.K., can be reached directly at or by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the U.S., SSYs Steve Rosenthal can be reached at or +1 203-961-1566.

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