SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


An altogether better week all over. Europe saw much more action, both locally and on export business. The Americas remain snug, and freights are stable-to-firm. Asia joined the party too, with a busy week on home markets as well as exports.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
The transatlantic trade has become even stronger, adding a few more dollars to last weeks rate increases. Xylene, ethanol, styrene and glycol are all in good demand for shipment to Europe.

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Rates into Mexico have appreciated slightly too. This market and the one into the Caribbean do not seem to be especially busy, but space is nearly always tight these days, a sure sign of healthy contractual volumes.

U.S. Gulf-to-east coast South America is steady. Again, contract volumes are strong, and the procession of styrene, caustic, base oil and acetone cargoes is sufficient to ensure rates do not move down.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East is where perhaps things have quieted down. All the same, there are a number of prompt requirements such as phenol and acrylonitrile that require stainless steel carriage, whereas the space that is available right now is mostly on coated ships. As such, we have assessed freights as unchanged this week.

The majority of European coastal routes registered an increase in demand over the past week.

In the North Sea and Baltic, it has become a bit difficult finding sufficient ships in the right place to satisfy demand. A number of cargoes destined for the deep-sea market from the Baltic have been affected, partly because of the ice conditions and the requirement for ice-class tonnage in the area.

There is also a move by owners to recoup some of the higher costs associated with rising bunker fuel prices. In some cases, rates for January have seen a 1 to 2 per ton increase over similar fixtures in December because of the added cost.

The Mediterranean too has been a bit busier, and most ships have been fixed into February. Transatlantic westbound is only marginally busier, but levels have increased to mid $30s/t for 5,000 ton cargoes from Rotterdam to the U.S. Gulf, chiefly because of the bunker effect.

Europe-to-Far East is very tight on prompt space, and there are some very large cargoes out there looking for space, including a bunch of base oils. From Rotterdam to principal Far East ports, 5,000 ton cargoes are notionally talked in the upper $70s/t, but where a ship is required urgently that figure can easily jump into the $90s/t.

Chinese buyers have been actively purchasing styrene, paraxylene and xylene, which has created a resurgence of trade intra-Far East. It has also been busy northbound from Southeast Asia into China and Northeast Asia, with assorted cargoes of benzene, toluene and pyrolysis gasoline.

Trade to other parts of the world has been encouraging too. Benzene is especially active into Northwest Europe and the U.S. Gulf. Rates are firm, with some reports suggesting figures in the mid $80s/t for 5,000 ton lots from Korea to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, although with patience these levels can be shaved. Sulphuric acid is still found on the routes into the Americas.

It has been a busier picture within the Middle East Gulf-India area too. Methanol is flooding out to both Asia and Europe, and freights are well into the $40s/t for 10,000 to 15,000 ton cargoes to Asia. High $50s/t seems to be the level to ship a similar cargo into the eastern Mediterranean.

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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