SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Good demand for space out of the U.S. Gulf is reflected in the strong freight levels seen these days. Europe too had another busy week, whereas preparations for the New Year holidays meant a quieter week on Asian domestic markets.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Numbers firmed even more on transatlanticeastbound routes, spurred on by higher European aromatic prices and a willingness to import U.S. ethanol and biodiesel again. A couple of deals were done at around $60 per ton for 10,000 to 12,000 ton cargoes from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, with owners looking for even higher levels for subsequent cargoes.

Freights into South America are also stronger by virtue that there is not that much spare tonnage available in the U.S. Gulf that can act as competition for those ships already scheduled down there.

A few traders have been toying with aromatics cargoes from the U.S. Gulf to the Far East, but realistically not much will happen on this trade lane for a week or so, which means that rates are notionally unchanged.

It would be fair to say that business has been fairly solid on most European routes, yet freights have not altered greatly, even allowing for high bunker costs.

Demand is steady, but on coastal markets the supply of tonnage seems to be keeping pace with demand. Deep-sea is not so balanced. Owners are reluctant to go east via Suez, unless they can obtain higher freight levels. This applies on business to the Far East as well as India and the Middle East Gulf. Numbers for 5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals from Rotterdam to the west coast of India have now edged into the $70s/t, with levels to principal Far East ports almost touching $80/t.

Transatlantic has not been so busy, but owners are swayed more by the better prospects in other markets than committing to put a ship on berth to the United States that they might not fill. Rates therefore remain in the mid $30s/t for 5,000 ton cargoes from Rotterdam to Houston.

The amount of trade that was quoted within Asia grew less and less as the week progressed. It has not dried up entirely, however, as there are a number of paraxylene, styrene, toluene and mixed xylene requirements into China for shipment later in February. Product prices have been exciting and have stimulated traders to look beyond the holiday period.

Exports from Asia too have been active, especially with benzene possibilities to both the U.S. and Europe. Traders have even been looking at styrene from Asia to Europe, whereas only recently there was a rush to move European styrene into Asia. Freights have lifted on export cargoes, with 10,000 to 15,000 ton cargoes of benzene from Korea to the U.S. Gulf attracting offers well over $60/t. Palm oil trades have been calmer, but this would be expected over this period.

Cargo volumes from the Middle East Gulf and India region have been impressive, particularly the amount of methanol being exported from Iran. There are prompt ships open in this area, but they do not remain prompt for long.

Westbound sees lots of methanol, caustic, sulphuric acid and glycols, with typical numbers for 2,000 to 3,000 ton cargoes from the Middle East Gulf to Turkey working out around $90 to $95/t. Eastbound is also firm and freights for 5,000 ton cargoes from the Middle East Gulf to Southeast Asia work out at around $36 to $37/t.

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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