SSY Base Oil Shipping Report



nother positive week in both Europe and the U.S. Decent amounts of material need to be shipped in both regions. Asia is supposed to be quieter, but freight rates remain firm nonetheless.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
NPRA is over, and the returning delegates seem to have pulled a few rabbits out of the hat. Gulf-to-Caribbean trade has benefitted from a surge of new orders into Venezuela, including caustic, solvents and aromatics. Space is tight from the U.S. Gulf to the west coast of Central America and onwards to Peru and Chile until much later in April or even better until May.

Ethanol is an important commodity on the Gulf-to-east coast of South America service, and we see several new requirements. Freights are roughly unchanged from the previous week. Ethanol is also busy on transatlanticeastbound, both from the New York area as well as from the U.S. Gulf. Parcels of aromatics such as metaxylene and benzene are popping up on this trade lane too.

April is starting out the way March did, with a number of open positions in the U.S. Gulf stretching out through the course of the month. However, freights are already rising, with owners talking of levels in the $60s and $70s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, for example. If the cargo volumes continue to hold then such levels may be achievable.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East has been slow apart from caustic which is short in Asia due to the Japanese plant stoppages. A couple of 40,000 ton cargoes were booked from the U.S. Gulf to Australia for around $2 million each.

It has been a busy start to the month in the North Sea and Baltic. Without doubt, contractual volumes are running very well, meaning there are good opportunities for some of the ships that are not found so often in the area to stay around and pick off some better-paying cargoes.

Southbound into the Mediterranean is very active, particularly with methanol and MTBE cargoes. Freight levels are in the low 30s/t for 5,000 ton cargoes from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the western Mediterranean. Northbound has experienced some strengthening of freight levels with routine cargoes of pyrolysis gasoline, FAME and ethanol all nudging upwards by 1 to 2/t this week.

Inter-Mediterranean cargo volumes have also increased to the extent that there are relatively few prompt positions remaining. The majority of owners are aiming for higher freight levels than before, but there are still a few ship owners who are willing to accept the old levels. This can distort freights by as much as 10/t.

For example, 5,000 ton parcels from the eastern Med to the western Med were recently achieving numbers around 17 to 18/t. Owners have submitted offers on the most recent cargoes at 25 to 27/t, yet there are still a small handful of owners prepared to accept less than 20/t.

Transatlantic westbound freights are stable from Northwest Europe. Sulphuric acid, urea ammonia nitrate, base oils, wax and solvents are the main ingredients this week, with a sprinkling of pyrolysis gasoline fixtures from the Med.

Europe-to-Far East is not that lively, yet there is not so much space available for first-half April loading. Various cargoes of base oils continue to be quoted from Europe and the Med, and there are the usual sophisticated bits and pieces in smaller sizes. Freights seem to be steady on this route too.

The domestic Asian chemical market is supposed to be quieter this week, yet freight levels seem to defy the evidence. There are reports too of high stock levels of styrene in Eastern China, yet there are still lots of enquiries to import more. Southbound is perhaps calmer, but northbound sees numerous cargo possibilities, chiefly for benzene/toluene/xylene, but also for phenol and acetone.

Export business is very stop/start. Benzene is quiet into the U.S. Gulf, but this week has been directed into Europe instead. India too is acquiring some aromatics and styrene, the rates for which can range from $50 to $65/t for 3,000 to 4,000 ton parcels from Korea to the west coast of India.

Palm oil freights are steady into India, but firm into the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe. 5,000 ton parcels of palm oil and biodiesel from the Malacca Straits to the western Mediterranean have been achieving mid $80s/t.

Where freights are really boiling is from India and the Middle East Gulf. Space is so scarce to Europe, for example, that 5,000 ton cargoes are being discussed in the $80s and $90s/t. Even simple parcels from the Red Sea into Northwest Europe have collected freights in the high $80s/t for 5,000 tons this week, and a couple of shipments inter-Red Sea paid low $60s/t. Eastbound too is seeing a lot of interest to move methanol into Asia, the levels for which are in the upper $60s/t for 10,000 to 15,000 ton cargoes to 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 at or by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the London office SSYs Jordi Maymi can be reached at or +44 20 7977 7560.

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