SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


A quiet week overall. The U.S. Gulf is generally unchanged, Europe remains hugely overtonnaged and rates are weak, and Asia continues to shine, at least in comparison to the other areas.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
There is very little tonnage available in the U.S. Gulf for prompt shipment transatlantic eastbound. Benzene seems to be the most fashionable item to ship this week due to plant issues in Europe and rising prices. Styrene and ethanol are on the menu too. Freights are hovering in the mid $40s/ton typically for 5,000 ton cargoes from the Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, but we have also seen low $50s/t fixed on this route.

U.S. Gulf-to-the Caribbean is reported to be slow both contractually and on the spot. U.S. Gulf-to-Mexico, however, is tight on space for prompt lifting. As August opens up, so too does the space situation, though some owners would prefer to hold back from offering on spot business until they have established their contractual volumes for the month.

U.S. Gulf-to-Brazil is fairly busy. Strangely, ethanol is one of the hot items this week, but also caustic, base oils and styrene have been noted.

Traffic from the U.S. Gulf to the Far East remains stalled, and many ships have space, both now and over the next month. A 5,000 ton cargo will typically cost mid-$40s/t from Houston to principal Far East ports, but that level could be trimmed if the ship is already scheduled to a particular berth.

Some ship owners felt they had a better week compared to the week before, and this is evidenced by the numbers of ships that are fixed through until mid August. Not everyone can say they are happy with the present market, however, and there are still many ships that are open in really prompt positions throughout Europe, piling up the losses for their owners.

The North Sea and Baltic areas are performing fairly well, whereas southbound demand into the Mediterranean is weak. Rates for 3,000 to 4,000 tons of base oils from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Turkey probably work out at around $45 to $50/t.

Northbound Mediterranean-to-northwest Europe is considered to be quiet, as are some of the inter-Med routes. All the same, it is in this area that more cargoes have been reportedly fixed, catapulting some ships into the middle of next month. All the same, rates tend to be scraping along the floor at rock-bottom levels.

In last weeks report we suggested that base oils may have been imported illegally into Turkey for blending into automotive fuels. We are pleased to report that all base oil imports are legitimate, and that it is only afterwards that the oil may then be subject to illegal activities by the customers.

Transatlantic westbound is a patchy affair. Some larger lots of naphtha and urea ammonia nitrate have been booked, along with parcels of caustic, base oils and pyrolysis gasoline. Numbers are unchanged from the previous week.

Demand on the Europe-to-Far East leg continues to wither away, ensuring freights stay weak. Numbers into India and the Middle East are softer too, although an attempt by a trader to fix 5,000 tons of base oils from the Black Sea to the Middle East Gulf in the low-to-mid $40s/t may be a bit ambitious. Typically, rates for such a move are in the $60s/t, although some owners may accept a number in the $50s/t as a completion cargo.

The flow of benzene to Europe and the U.S. Gulf has virtually ceased. Fortunately for ship owners there are still plenty of palm oil cargoes back to Europe and India as well as big lots of sulphuric acid to Brazil and Chile. Several ships have space from Asia to the United States in August, trimming freight levels slightly on that route.

Intra-Asia trades have been a bit busier, thanks chiefly to Chinese buyers buying cargoes like styrene and xylene from Korea and, from Southeast Asia, cargoes such as paraxylene, alkylate and heavy aromatics for blending into gasoline.

India and the Middle East Gulf remain very busy, especially westbound where there are substantial cargoes of methanol, pyrolysis gasoline, glycols and paraxylene. Eastbound volumes are strong, but there are nevertheless ships that still have space for completion cargoes to Southeast Asia and the Far East. Freights from the Middle East Gulf to India are also a bit softer, and we see 5,000 tons of base oils from Iran to the west coast of India typically costing around $25/t.

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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