SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Europes trade is intermittent, with some days more active than others. The United States remains quiet, while Asia takes a rest during Golden Week.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Tight product availability is another reason being given as to why the shipping market is so slow out of the Gulf of Mexico.

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Styrene, for example, should theoretically be shipping on the transatlantic route to Europe, but the product remains in tight supply in the Gulf. Other aromatics could conceivably move to Europe, where there is a pronounced shortage, but the arbitrages just dont quite line up.

Glycols were shipping to Europe until only a few weeks ago. Now, the product is scarce in the United States, and glycols are instead being imported into the United States from Asia. Some ethanol is making its way to Europe and this just about keeps rates intact at around the mid-high $40s per metric ton mark for 5,000 ton parcels Houston to Rotterdam.

The Gulf to East Coast South America is experiencing heavy contractual traffic, which means there is not much open space on scheduled tonnage for small parcels. Until now, this has not really mattered as spot demand has been flaccid but we are beginning to see some enquiries for small lots of chemicals and base oils that might warrant an outsider coming on berth.

The Gulf to Caribbean route is quiet and there is not much happening.

The Gulf to the Far East is beginning to see a little more activity that has drawn in several outsiders on berth later in October. Products on the move are things like phenol, acetone, acetic acid, vegetable oils and paraxylene. While there is still some first half October space available on scheduled vessels, rates are unlikely to climb, but this may change after the holidays in Asia this week.

The Gulf to India and the Middle East Gulf region is sufficiently poor that an owner has cancelled its scheduled sailing in October. Rates are not expected to rise, however, as there is still space on other scheduled ships in October, as well as from the pack of potential outsiders that are fully open in the U.S. Gulf this month.

This past week has demonstrated the unpredictable nature of business in the North and Baltic seas, where busy weeks alternate with inactive weeks. This week was return to an inactive week.

Elsewhere, intra-Mediterranean markets picked up and prompt space was being quickly snapped up, even in the East Mediterranean. The mix of cargoes being finalised is an eclectic one, with vegetable oils, base oils, aromatics, MTBE, biodiesel and plain old clean petroleum.

In some instances, freight levels have lifted, so for example 5,000t fatty acid methyl ester from Southern Spain to West Coast Italy fetched 20/t, whereas a more normal level would have been 17 to 18/t. A 5,000 ton cargo of vegetable oil from Barcelona to Huelva fixed at 20/t, when a more normal level would have been 15/t.

Southbound into the Mediterranean has been mostly busy, but there has also been a wide range of open tonnage from which to choose, and in some cases we are aware of some very competitive numbers having been done into the East Mediterranean, which are barely into the mid $40s/t for 6,000 to 7,000 ton cargoes. On other shipments into the East Mediterranean, we have heard levels of $120/t claimed fixed for 3,000 ton chemicals from the Baltic to East Mediterranean.

In general, we find freights southbound to be on the firm side, and the amount of cargo available tends to lend support to the owners. Northbound has been balanced for some time without much volatility either way.

Transatlantic westbound has been quiet. Bits and pieces of caustic, urea ammonia nitrate, reformate and pyrolysis gasoline have been booked, and several outsiders have found their way on berth, but prospects are not encouraging for owners due to lack of arbitrages.

Europe to the Far East was slow, but with the holidays out in Asia this was understandable. There is some vessel demand, but volumes are mostly small and specialised and rates are notionally unchanged. A couple of small base oil parcels have been talked, but the trader cargoes are unlikely to be fixed.

Europe to India and the Middle East Gulf region also saw some small base oil requirements, but again, nothing new has been fixed so far. Rates remain in the $70s/t for 5,000 ton cargoes, while 2,000 to 3,000 ton parcels are seeing mid $80s/t based on Rotterdam to West Coast India.

Prior to the holidays taking place in Asia over the past week, fixing was brisk on the Domestic Asia services and prompt space was in great demand. Since then, things are more muted, but are expected to recover over the next week or so.

Export trades were busy. Palm oil and biodiesel created the most demand and rates have been rather firm. Cargoes such as glycol, caustic, benzene and even base oils have been seen looking to ship to the United States, for example, and some owners are now asking $70/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Korea to Houston.

Such rates are not really achievable, and what we have seen is that charterers have increased the size of cargo to 20,000 tons or larger in order to reduce the freight costs. This works well for products such as caustic, benzene/toluene/xylene or biodiesel, but things like base oils are restricted in size and will more than likely see numbers in the $60s and $70s/t from Korea and Taiwan to the United States, and $90s/t to Europe.

The market from India to Middle East Gulf ports is essentially unchanged. Less material was quoted eastbound, which is logical, yet ships seem to be steadily filling.

Westbound has been active with all sorts of chemical enquiries, interspersed with the occasional base oil possibility. Rates are looking firm, and mid $70s/t would be the benchmark for 5,000 ton parcels into the Mediteranean.

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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Logistics & Distribution    Shipping