SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Business has resumed at a sedate pace in the U.S. after Thanksgiving. Europe has moved up a gear however, with more December cargoes being quoted. Asia too had a busy week, both domestically and on export markets.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
It will take some time for things to settle down and a picture to emerge after the long Thanksgiving holiday. Space in general is undoubtedly tight in the area, but as the amount of new business quoted has not really been outstanding, freight levels have generally remained unchanged across all routes.

There has been a bit of a bounce on U.S. Gulf-to-Far East numbers however. It is apparent that there are not so many scheduled ships able to accommodate cargoes of greater than 5,000 tons. So while it may be possible to fix a 5,000 ton cargo from Houston to principal Far East ports between $70 and $75/t, owners are putting a premium on bigger lots, to the extent that we have seen levels in the mid $80s/t talked for 10,000 tons to main Far East ports. Such levels remain as talk only for now, and it will be interesting to see which direction rates take as we advance into December.

Trade may be a bit lethargic in the North Sea and Baltic areas, but there has been a busier feel to the southbound leg into the Mediterranean. Various cargoes of base oil, 2-ethylhexanol, sulphite lye, acrylonitrile and white spirit have been looked at from the Baltic to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Northbound too has a slightly improved feel to demand. Pyrolysis gasoline seems to be the flavour of the month with several cargoes moving from Spain as well as some Black Sea material talked. Freights are not increasing in either direction so far, but it will depend rather on how December pans out.

We detect a slight stiffening of ideas among the owners on Inter-Mediterranean routes, but there is sufficient tonnage around to thwart an upwards move, at least in the short term. Should demand strengthen towards year end there is a chance that freights could firm as a result.

Transatlantic demand picked up sufficiently to stop freights from sliding lower. Benzene and pyrolysis gasoline cargoes have been fixed, with rates clinging to low $30s/t for 5,000 to 7,000 ton cargoes from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf.

Europe-to-Far East seemed to descend into ever-lower levels, with several instances of mid $60s/t being done for 5,000 ton cargoes from Rotterdam. The main reason for the decline appears to have been nervousness from a bunch of owners having tonnage clustered around second-half December loading dates in Rotterdam. But in the last day or so, the number of ships has thinned, and confidence has been restored among owners to the extent that a couple have started to ask for higher freights again.

There has been asteady supply of cargoes across most domestic Asian routes, allowing freights to increase here and there by a dollar or two. Orthoxylene and paraxylene business into China is partly responsible, but there have also been other grades such as styrene, toluene and vinyl acetate monomer, for example.

Exportvolumes are robust. Benzene enquiries are again being seen into the U.S. Gulf, though the charterers are looking for January ships now. Sulphuric acid business is plentiful too, and caustic features again into the U.S.

Palm oil movements are doing well, especially into India, which may surprise some observers who predicted that demand would wane after the Diwali festival. Freights have continued to climb on these routes, and it is possible to see low $30s/t being fixed for 12,000 ton cargoes from the Malacca Straits to the west coast of India. Space is tight for bigger lots back to Europe too, with an inevitable surge in freights.

India and the Middle East Gulf region continue to produce a lot of demand for tonnage both east and westbound, allowing owners to maintain the current freight levels.

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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