SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


There are a reasonable number of cargo opportunities for ships open in the U.S. Gulf. Ships in Asian waters are also fairly easy to cover, but Europe is a much harder region from which to secure business.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
It has been another one of those weeks in which parts of the U.S. market have given the appearance of being very busy, whereas other parts have been sluggish. And even more maddeningly, those routes that have looked busy have not actually produced that many fixtures. Its a bit like running on a treadmill but not getting anywhere.

This has been the case especially on the transatlantic service. There have been a variety of cargoes talked, but much of the talk has disintegrated, and only a few ethanol and benzene/toluene/xylene cargoes were worked. Traders suggest October will be busier, and have been busily checking ships positions and rates for aromatics for early October loading instead.

We see the same situation on the U.S. Gulf-to-Far East service. After much talk, there are still the same few ships left with pockets of space for September, but again the traders indicate that October will see a resumption of aromatics business.

U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean service maintained a steady momentum of enquiry all week, but in this case the reason for the sparseness of reported deals was more the lack of space than anything else. U.S. Gulf-to-South America felt slow however, and apart from some interest in caustic and styrene not much else developed on this route. We do not see any reason to revise any of our freight assessments on any of the routes this week.

Things never really picked up in the North Sea and Baltic this week. There may have been a fraction more spot business quoted, but it was dwarfed by the overhang of tonnage that still inhabits this region. Freights are highly competitive, although attempting to get them lower than they have been historically is not so simple. In those situations, owners will lose less money by sitting tight than by taking the cargo.

Southbound into the Mediterranean is lousy, and demand is soft. A typical cargo of 4,000 tons of easy chemicals from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the Spanish Mediterranean fetched 22/t which is a good barometer for this route.

Northbound is stable with no major changes. Inter-Mediterranean is very dull, however, so many vessels have no employment. Trying to work a cargo for October proved impossible as the majority of ships have yet to clear the next couple of days and were unable to offer on a cargo that far off.

Transatlantic westbound drew some trader interest in benzene, toluene and xylenes. Very little came to fruition, however, with higher prices stalling the traders best efforts. Some caustic and sulphuric acid shipments were booked into the United States, and there were some fixtures of styrene, base oils and gasoline components into South America too.

Europe-to-Asia is at a standstill, but the quietness may be linked to the autumn holiday in China followed by Golden Week in the first week of October.

There has been a variety of imports proposed into China which pretty well keeps the rates on the intra-Far East services at unchanged levels, for now. These include some larger paraffin cargoes as well as paraxylene, benzene, styrene and solvent naphtha C9. Several benzene/toluene/xylene cargoes in the 4,000 to 8,000 ton range have been seen northbound from Southeast Asia as well as staying within Southeast Asia.

Deep-sea exports see a lot of demand for caustic from a wide range of places in the Americas and West Africa in addition to the usual sulphuric acid shipments to Chile. Palm oils to Europe and the United States are attracting firm offers, though rates are not as firm as they were last month. Good demand for palm oil products is reported from China and the Indian Ocean, keeping those levels on a firm basis.

India and the Middle East Gulf region would seem to be tight on prompt space yet even here we have seen a couple of ships pop up on prompt dates somewhat unexpectedly. There is a lot of volume quoted for October, especially of methanol and MTBE. Freight levels here are like so many areas this week, in that they remain unchanged.

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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