SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The U.S. Gulf is not quite as busy as in the previous week, but there is still a lot of demand for space, especially into Asia. Europe remains horribly quiet, while Asian markets are generally unchanged.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
There are plenty of enquiries on the U.S. Gulf-to-Asia trade lane. November space has just about all gone, unless any owners wish to reroute a ship from another service. This would be an expensive option for any charterer as the rate for 5,000 ton cargoes from Houston to main ports in the Far East have been paying mid-to-high $60s/t, but for a prompt requirement an owner may feel justified in asking much more.

Transatlantic eastbound has come off the boil. Styrene is still quoted around, and there are possibilities for ethanol, vegetable oil, glycols and aromatics, but not so many of these possibilities have been converted into firm requirements. There are several ships on berth to Europe in the first half of November, but owners do not want to back down and are quoting freights in the mid-to-high $40s/t for 5,000 ton lots from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Waiting to the last minute could produce something less, but would be a gamble.

U.S. Gulf-to-east coast South America meanwhile is running well with good contractual volumes. Owners are putting figures of around $50/t on 5,000 ton cargoes from Houston to Santos at the moment. U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean is a bit quieter this week, but rates are unchanged.

Things were much quieter through the week within Europe. The long-running French strikes were perhaps partly to blame as many regular deliveries failed to happen. The strikes eventually ended on 29 October, so the hope is that business will rebuild again afterwards.

There were some positives too that came out of the industrial action, such as shipments of MTBE and caustic from Northwest Europe into the Mediterranean that would have been routinely supplied out of Fos or Lavera. A couple of base oil shipments were heard to have taken place from Spain into northern France, which may also be as a consequence of the strikes.

Transatlantic westbound has been very sedate. Traders have been checking freight rates for cargoes of benzene and pyrolysis gasoline, but owners are reluctant to agree terms – for example, figures of $25/t have been mentioned as charterers ideas for 12,000 tons of pygas from Rotterdam to the U.S. Gulf, whereas owners are leaning towards upper $20s/t for cargoes of this size.

Very little is happening on the Europe-to-Asia routes. Some paraxylene was heard fixed, and another large cargo of butanols and paraffins seems to have been fixed from Finland to China, but demand is otherwise very poor. Freights have dropped some $5/t, and it should now be possible to fix 5,000 ton cargoes from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to principal Far East ports in the upper $60s/t.

Levels have been coming off on the Europe-to-India and Middle East Gulf service too, chiefly because it is an interesting direction for owners to send ships, and they may be willing to accept slightly lower freights in order to reposition their ships.


It feels a little less active on parts of the domestic Asian market. There are still cargoes of styrene, toluene and benzene into China and Taiwan, and many owners trading in this sector are full well into the second half of November. Many ships are also running late in the area due to recent typhoon activity, perhaps making the market feel shorter on space than it really is. Southbound to Southeast Asia meanwhile feels a little less busy this week. Northbound still has good quantities of methanol, toluene and styrene, but inter-Southeast Asia has been slower.

Exports to Europe and the U.S. are vigorous however. Several large caustic shipments to the U.S. remain uncovered, and there are some large lots of sulphuric acid still to be done. A 7,000 ton cargo of phosphoric acid from China to three Mediterranean ports reportedly went for $150/t.

Palm oil business has been steady to Europe, but Chinese demand looks a bit slower, as does India. The Deepavali festival will commence in parts of Asia on 5 November and will ensure a short week.

The Middle East Gulf and India are generally active. Space westbound to Europe is scarce, but little wonder since Europe rates highly as an undesirable destination. Numbers are still effectively in the $70s/t for 5,000 ton lots from India or the Middle East Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and 2,000 to 3,000 ton parcels into Turkey and the eastern Mediterranean are attracting offers in the $90s/t. Eastbound to Asia is fairly active with lots of methanol, paraxylene and orthoxylene, as well as MTBE to China. Freights remain fairly firm.

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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