SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Demand for December vessels in the U.S. Gulf has fallen away, but still exceeds supply of tonnage. Europe has been busier in all areas, whereas Asia has slowed down a little.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
December is drawing to a close, and most producers and traders have managed to cover the bulk of their requirements. There is not much spare product around that traders can get their hands on to ship either. As such, it has been a much more relaxed week. Vessel space is tight across the U.S. for December, and owners are now starting to market their January ships. Freight rates are assessed as unchanged on all routes out of the U.S. Gulf this week.

Transatlantic has probably been the most active of the routes with ethanol, styrene, glycols, xylene and vegetable oils widely quoted to Europe.

U.S. Gulf-to-east coast South America has been busy, too, and as space is tight a smaller ship had to be brought on berth to cover a base oils shipment to Argentina at a level some 25 percent higher than would normally be expected.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East has come off the boil with most aromatics now deferred until January. A couple of ethanol shipments to the Middle East Gulf and a large biodiesel cargo to India have been among the more interesting cargoes to fix for owners with any spare tonnage open in the U.S. Gulf.

There has been more movement on the coastal markets within Europe, but in this case tonnage availability continues to exceed supply. This means that freights are stagnant, or even weak in the case of prompt shipments.

Owners trading in the North Sea and Baltic regions, with their heavy portfolio of contractual business, are more able to resist any reduction in spot rates, but those trading within the Mediterranean have little option, especially if it means having a ship idle over the long holiday period.

Southbound business into the Mediterranean is holding up, with cargoes such as MTBE, benzene, paraxylene and ethanol seen. Northbound is not so active, although there have been a number of pyrolysis gasoline, styrene and base oil cargoes noted. In the Mediterranean, it is in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea where most of the new business is occurring. Clean petroleum products, vegetable oils and base oils have all been seen, as well as styrene, acetic acid and vinyl acetate monomer.

Transatlantic is steady. Benzene and pyrolysis gasoline shipments continue to yield low $30s/t for 5,000 ton lots from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf.

Europe-to-Far East has become tight for December. Base oils to China and Singapore continue to be fixed, with further interest in styrene, butanols, phenol, acetone and acrylonitrile. Europe-to-India is fairly busy too with phosphoric acid, styrene, vegetable oils and ethylene dichloride.

It has been a bit quieter in the domestic Asian sector this week. There have been the usual aromatics quoted into China as well as some caustic and base oil movements locally, but volumes feel like they are down.

Exports away from the area are steady, with the usual sulphuric acid, palm oils and even benzene to the U.S. Rates for 18,000 ton cargoes of palm oils from the Malacca Straits to the Mediterranean are in the $60s/t.

The Middle East Gulf-India region has been a bit slower too. Westbound sees more tonnage available and fewer cargoes. Rates are beginning to look more competitive for prompt shipment – a large cargo of caustic was booked back into the Mediterranean some $10/t lower than the previous comparable fixture. There is a good selection of eastbound space too, although the number of cargo enquiries is fairly positive, including methanol, MTBE, paraxylene and glycols into Southeast Asia and China.

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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