SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Some routes out of the U.S. Gulf have become tighter on available space, while others are reported to be quieter and seeing more open space. Europe has seen an increase in demand for end-month shipments while Asian markets remain unchanged.

U.S. Gulf
Activity has increased from the U.S. Gulf to the east coast of South America, with a number of base oil, styrene and caustic cargoes noted. Space is almost non-existent until the end of June, so any owner considering slotting some spare tonnage on berth will be looking for premiums over the current levels of upper $60s per metric ton for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Santos.

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The U.S. Gulf to Far East route is also very tight on space until late June, more because of heavy contractual demand than any real spot market activity, but a moderate rise in spot demand could trigger an increase in freight rates.

Transatlantic eastbound has produced a number of enquiries for benzene and styrene, but few, if any, have come to fruition. Meantime, prompt space has become available on several scheduled sailings, causing freight levels to decline into the low $40s/t basis 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam.

U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean has been slow, with no major changes to report.

U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf has also been quiet, and there are several ships still with open space which could see some discounting off the current levels, which are around $90/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to the west coast of India.

The end of the month has brought an increase in the amount of business quoted, all of which requires loading prior month end. This is particularly noticeable in areas such as the North Sea and Baltic, as well as within the Mediterranean.

Southbound into the east Mediterranean has been fairly flat, with the main demand being for base oils, styrene and some specialist grades of chemicals. Demand into the west Mediterranean, however, has been more fruitful, with reasonable volumes of ETBE, fatty acid methyl ester, benzene and cyclohexane noted.

Northbound from the Mediterranean has not been too shabby, with some useful cargoes of ETBE, pyrolysis gasoline, caustic, aromatics and isomerate quoted. Prompt requirements on the inter-Mediterranean routes include base oil, caustic, methanol, styrene, fatty acid methyl ester, urea ammonia nitrate, and MTBE.

Transatlantic westbound has picked up and prompt space is scarce. Rates have risen, with 8,000 tons of paraxylene from Rotterdam to Wilmington fetching high $40/t for example, and a 7,000 ton parcel of easy chemicals from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to U.S. Atlantic Coast is claimed to have gone in the high $50s/t.

Base oils are seeking space into the U.S. Gulf and Caribbean, and are competing for space with caustic, biodiesel, sulphuric acid, urea ammonia nitrate, and gasoline components. Freight levels for 5,000 ton parcels from Rotterdam to Houston have risen from the mid $40s/t to around $50/t. Although Europe/Far East has experienced a slight rise in demand, there are several ships that still need cargoes to fill out, so freight rates remain unchanged. A number of base oil cargoes have been quoted to the Far East and China, along with some pyrolysis gasoline, vegetable oil, butanols, phosphoric acid, and area ammonia nitrate.

Europe to India-Middle East Gulf has seen some interesting cargoes, such as base oils from Svetle, Czech Republic, acrylonitrile from Ventspils, Latvia, and ethylene dichloride from Stade, Germany, but freight levels have not altered so far.

The general view of the domestic Asia market is that it is not very dynamic at present. That said, the prompt gaps in vessels that were open last week have been gradually filling, suggesting a slight rise in both contractual and spot business.

Northbound in particular has produced better demand for glycols, MTBE, styrene, paraxylene, orthoxylene, and methanol.

Not so much has been happening southbound, apart from some bits of aromatics, caustic and nitric acid. The same is true of the inter-Southeast Asia route, whereas inter-Far East does have a number of enquiries for paraxylene, mixed xylenes, benzene and styrene in reasonable quantities.

Demand on the Asia Export market has been swollen by requirements of benzene, cumene, pyrolysis gasoline, toluene, caustic and biodiesel to the U.S., with demand noted for caustic, biodiesel and benzene to Europe.

Freight levels are firm, with rates from Ulsan into the U.S. Gulf often surpassing $70/t for cargoes in excess of 10,000 tons and high $90s/t being seen for similar shipments to Europe. It has been reported that just 1,000 tons of base oils from Korea to Turkey was fixed in the $180s/t.

Westbound demand from the India-Middle East Gulf region is fair and not many ships are on berth with space. Aromatics, methanol, caustic, styrene, biodiesel, acrylonitrile, and ethanol cargoes have been noted. Eastbound is still reasonably tight on space with a couple of large requirements of mixed grades and some relets seen.

Adrian Brown is senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London. Information about SSY can be found Adrian Brown, in the U.K., can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the London office SSYs Jordi Maymi can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor +44 20 7977 7560.

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