SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Activity in the first week of August surprised us. The U.S. Gulf registered a slight uptick, Europe saw both short-sea and long-haul business improve, while Asia too got in on the act with a bit more demand.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Business from the U.S. Gulf firmed up just sufficiently for a couple of ships to get fixed away to Europe, and a couple more managed to fill to Asia and South America. However, there is still a bunch of ships left open in the U.S. Gulf this month, and their owners are beginning to wonder how much longer there will be demand. Other owners are more confident and claim to see lots of business from the U.S. Gulf.

In terms of rates, the difference can be a good $5 to $10/t. On eastbound transatlantic, for instance, we have heard of levels in the $50s/t for a prompt cargo of 5,000 tons from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, but equally we have heard mid $40s/t with another owner. We have seen 3,000 tons of base oils worked from Houston to Antwerp in the mid $60s/t, but have seen another owner accept mid $50s/t for 3,000 tons of chemicals.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East is another route with great inconsistencies. We know of an owner looking to achieve rates in the $80s and $90s/t for the remaining balance space of 3,000 to 4,000 tons to Southeast Asia, yet we also see other owners willing to accept levels in the mid $40s/t for a 5,000 ton cargo from Houston to principal Far East ports. That some owners are even daring not to conform would indicate that there is more business out there for them to be bullish about. Whether it lasts is something else.

The amount of business conducted in the North Sea and Baltic regions has been satisfactory, and most owners have managed to fix their ships ahead by a week or so. Rates are all fairly subdued however. Europe-to-Mediterranean saw a bunch of new cargoes, tightening the amount of prompt space.

Northbound from the Mediterranean picked up slightly too, with pyrolysis gasoline, toluene, xylene and caustic helping fill the gaps. Inter-Med had a much busier week, helped by more cargoes out of the Black Sea, including base oils into Turkey.

Transatlantic westbound has not been very lively. Naphtha, urea ammonia nitrate and caustic have been the main commodities moving, but as volumes have not been great the freight levels have been poor.

Europe-to-South America has been more active, especially in terms of base oils, whether to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and even the west coast of Central America.

Europe-to-Far East has suddenly started to look firmer. August space has mostly been filled, and owners are beginning to seek higher numbers. The talk is that as Iranian chemicals and base oils become harder for traders to buy due to the sanctions being imposed on Iran, then traders have to find alternative supplies for their customers in Asia, some of which will be stemmed from Europe.

It has been another busy week within the Asian domestic market. Good flows of aromatics have been reported intra-Far East, as well as material moving up from Southeast Asia. There has been a number of base oil cargoes included in the cargo lists this week, including base oils from Dalian to Singapore.

Export trades from Asia have again been showing signs of benzene activity, with enquiries both to Europe and the U.S. Gulf. Palm oils are strong too, and together they ensure that rates remain firm.

India and the Middle East Gulf should quiet down with the onset of Ramadan on 11 August. However, again possibly because of the sanctions against Iran, there has been much more spot activity reported from the region. Space is especially tight westbound. We notice too that owners are increasingly unwilling to load cargoes from Jebel Ali that clearly do not originate from Jebel Ali for fear of breaking the sanctions. Eastbound is fairly busy, but there are still some ships with open space.

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.

Related Topics

Market Topics