SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The Americas market is looking a little softer on some trade lanes. Asia has recovered quickly from the holidays, and local demand has improved. Europe is busy, especially to Asia and the Indian Ocean.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Things went quiet on some of the regional trades in the Americas. Gulf-to-the-Caribbean for instance saw less activity, while routes to the east coast of South America only produced a handful of spot requirements, including some base oils, phenol and ethanol. Contractual volumes however strengthened, so the amount of space available has not really changed a lot.

Transatlantic eastbound recorded a number of styrene and ethanol enquiries, but the rate levels for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam are around mid $40s/t, which suggests that there is still quite a lot of open space on this route.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East is much busier with ethylene dichloride, aromatics, styrene, phenol, acrylonitrile and acetone. Scheduled October space has virtually all been filled, so some owners have decided to insert some additional ships to cater for demand. Initial reports say that these owners may be asking for lower rates, which is highly unusual since the point of putting extra tonnage on berth would be to raise rates. We may have to wait and see what the final outcome is. Standard levels for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Far East mainports are around $65/t and $70/t to China.

There was more of a buzz to the European markets over the past week. Routes to Asia and the Indian Ocean were the greatest benefactors, not so much in terms of freight but simply volume. Demand has far outstripped space on the scheduled carriers, especially for October loading that at least half-a-dozen extra vessels have been roped in to help transport all the cargoes to Asia, and a further handful have been needed to cater for demand into India and the Middle East Gulf.

Freights have risen, but only very moderately, perhaps not more that $3 to $4/t so far, at least to Asia. Owners seem content to pick off 5,000 ton cargoes from Rotterdam to Far East mainports in the mid $80s/t, while to India it should be possible to book 2,000 ton parcels from Rotterdam to the west coast of India for around $80/t. There is however still a lot of outstanding business to be covered, and it may be that we see a slight increase to Asia this week.

Transatlantic westbound was another route that registered a slight increase in demand. Several benzene cargoes were booked. The first batch went in the low $30s/t for 7,000 tons from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf, but owners with tonnage later in the month began to look for mid-to-high $30s and even $40/t for 5,000 to 6,000 ton lots. Confirmation was received too of further biodiesel fixtures to the U.S. with additional requirements being quoted. The logic to this new trade has still to be clarified.

European coastal markets had a busy week in most areas. The Mediterranean remains quite tight, but freight levels have not altered. The North Sea and Baltic are fairly busy as well, and here too rates have not really changed. Into and out of the Mediterranean is much the same. There are plenty of cargoes southbound into the Med, but rates linger in the low-to-mid 20s/t for 3,000 to 4,000 ton parcels from Northwest Europe to southern Spain, with perhaps mid 30s/t to the west coast of Italy.

The return to work in China produced some impressive results. Almost immediately, there were dozens and dozens of requirements for paraxylene, mono ethylene glycol, styrene, phenol, MTBE, ethanol, base oils, toluene, pyrolysis gasoline and clean petroleum products.

Domestic Asian rates have lifted slightly compared to the previous week, with 5,000 ton cargoes being booked from Southeast Asia to Ningbo in the low $40s/t and low $20s/t being done for similar cargoes from Korea.

Asian export business however has not been so impressive. Numbers on palm oil have drifted downwards through weaker demand. To the west coast of India, 10,000 ton parcels now command around $30 to $31/t, while the ultra-high rates to Europe have been capped. Rates for 20,000 ton cargoes from the Malacca Straits to Rotterdam are mid $80s/t, down from the triple digit figures being seen a couple of weeks ago.

To ship 5,000 tons of base oils from Korea to Northwest Europe however will still see numbers of around $100/t for now, although should the benchmark levels for palm oil continue to decrease, this may in turn affect tonnage supply, and rates could ease from Northeast Asia in that case.

The India-Middle East Gulf region looks slightly more bullish. Westbound space is still tricky, and rates in the mid $80s/t are being reported on 5,000 ton parcels of base oils from Iran to Turkey. On the eastbound service, mid $50s/t has been mentioned but unconfirmed on 10,000 tons of base oils from Iran to China, but those kinds of rate are conceivable in a market where chemicals activity is picking up.

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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