SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Shipping is active throughout most of Europe, and the U.S. too is busy and not long on tonnage. Inter-Asian routes are a bit slow to recover after the Lunar Holiday, whereas India and the Middle East continue to thrive.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Prompt space from the U.S. Gulf to the Caribbean remains tight for most parcels larger than 500 tons. March is shaping up to be a busy month of contractual business, but inevitably there will be spot space available.

U.S. Gulf to Brazil and Argentina however is proving to be especially tight for February loading, with only limited amounts of space showing up for March so far. Subject to space, a typical rate for a 5,000 ton cargo from Houston to Santos has jumped into the mid $40s/t, and for a base oil shipment that needs a particular oil-company-approved ship, the rate could be quite a bit higher. Part of the problem lies with the lack of return cargoes from Brazil and Argentina. Ethanol used to be a mainstay of this trade into the U.S. Gulf, but nowadays we are just as likely to find ethanol being shipped out of the Gulf instead, often to Europe and more frequently to India and the Middle East.

Rates into Europe for 10,000 ton lots can be as high as low $50s/t from the U.S. Atlantic coast, but we still can see numbers in the $40s/t from the U.S. Gulf on specific positions.

A 15,000 ton ethanol cargo was worked from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of India in the low $70s/t, just to give a guideline as to rates on that route. Smaller parcels will end up costing around $100/t for 3,000 tons from Houston to Mumbai.

U.S. Gulf to Far East meanwhile is mostly quiet, but February space has nearly all gone. A fully firm cargo of 5,000 tons of base oils from Houston to Korea or mainport China could possibly be fixed at around $60 to $62/t.

Europe seems destined to remain in the grip of winter for some time longer. Consequently, vessel delays are endemic which in turn is keeping space tight and freights firm. Ice continues to plague the Baltic, making things trickier for base oil shippers.

Perhaps the market from Northwest Europe into the Mediterranean is not quite as strong, or at least there are a few more ships open with space. Back out of the Mediterranean to Northwest Europe looks stable with no major shifts to report.

Inter-Mediterranean business has picked up, and there is considerable tightness of prompt space in several areas. Rates are pushing upwards by some 10 to 20 percent in this region.

Transatlantic westbound is not quite so active, but the lack of willingness to place additional tonnage on berth translates into stable freight rates.

Europe to Far East is growing stronger too amidst a tighter tonnage situation. A 1,000 ton parcel from Rotterdam to mainport China can easily cost $100/t or more. Space still exists into India and the Middle East Gulf however. Phosphoric acid is the main commodity here, and a pricing agreement between the Mediterranean suppliers and Indian buyers could see some of that space disappear.

It has been a slow return to work for some in the Asian markets after the Lunar Holidays. Domestic intra-Far East trade seems a little lacklustre, but is predicted to pick up rapidly next week.

Biodiesel and palm oil cargoes form the backbone of trade to Europe, with small parcels costing upwards of $80/t for 3,000 tons from Korea to Rotterdam. Benzene has been the most active commodity from Asia to the U.S., the result of which is a host of ships with part-cargo space. A number in the $50s/t may be just enough to clinch a sale of 5,000 tons from Korea to Houston.

Bits and pieces of space are available for parcels from northeast Asia into India and the Middle East, and the odd bargain can perhaps be secured. Routes back out from India and the Middle East are still very busy with vast quantities of chemicals moving. Contractual space is pretty full both to Europe and Asia, so much of this material spills out on the spot market, the rates for which can be steamy at times. Occasionally however, it may be possible to identify a ship with a couple of spare tanks from India or Iran to Southeast Asia, in which case a level of high $30s/t may be possible for 3,000 tons of base oils.

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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