SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The market out of the U.S. Gulf had a disappointing week during which little materialised. European trades were slow, as was the market within Asia.

U.S. Gulf
Rates from the U.S. Gulf have hardly changed, signifying that demand did not ultimately increase as much over the last week as owners had been expecting. The clear winner has got to be the U.S. Gulf to east coast of South America route, since demand has been strong enough to bump freights up for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Santos into the region of $70/t.

Base oils are indeed among the list of enquiries this week, and are joined by more caustic and smaller parcels of acetone, styrene and aromatics.

The main loser over the week is the transatlantic route. Actual contractual nominations did not live up to the amount of tentative nominations, and owners were left with quite a bit of prompt open space. Those who were able to benefit from the situation were mostly aromatics traders. Also, several benzene cargoes were booked, the levels for which have been under $40/t.

For the rest, the tonnage supply picture is mostly the same. There is not a lot of open tonnage in the U.S. Gulf within June, and certainly very little of it that can swiftly switch from one trade lane to another. U.S. Gulf to Far East, for instance, is very short on June space, but the amount of enquiry is not overwhelming and so rates are flat.

Glycols cargoes of 3,000 tons were heard to have gone from the U.S. Gulf to China in the mid-$80s/t for example, and low $80s/t was achieved on 5,000 tons of ethylene dichloride from the U.S. Gulf to China, although that particular deal failed to materialise. Looking ahead into July, most of the regular carriers have open space into Asia at this stage.

The European coastal markets had a reasonably successful week, in spite of a major industry event in Norway that had many people away from their desks.

North Sea and Baltic business has been steady, apart from the clean petroleum markets that flaked, while southbound into the Mediterranean appears reasonably busy.

Ethanol and aromatics, along with FAME, MTBE, and ETBE, have had the most success. Rates have been mixed. The majority of cargoes into the West Mediterranean have been booked at unchanged numbers, but we have heard of business going into the East Mediterranean where some of the rates agreed have been as much as 50 percent lower than cargoes of a similar size that have been destined for non-scheduled ports.

Northbound appears to have quietened down a bit.

Inter-Mediterranean markets however are fairly dynamic with good levels of demand, especially from cargoes such as MTBE, methanol, caustic and FAME. Base oils have not been so active, unfortunately.

Transatlantic westbound is tight on space for the balance of June. Nonetheless, owners are timid when it comes to driving up freight levels, and so far we have not seen anything that can be classified as being higher than normal.

Europe to Far East is dull with very few mainstream products such as paraxylene or orthoxylene on the move. Base oils have featured however, as indeed they have on the Middle East Gulf route. Rates are unchanged.

Demand flopped on the domestic Asia markets, and while there have been various enquiries for styrene, MTBE, pyrolysis gasoline and paraxylene into China, the absolute volumes have been lower than normal.

The appetite to work the business firm has not been present either. High inventories are being blamed, but it could equally be a feeling that commodity prices are falling and buyers see no need to restock in such circumstances.

Base oil demand has been sporadic within Asia. Some base oil enquiries have been seen within Southeast Asia and also into the UAE and India markets but most seem to be half-hearted attempts and may well be simply rate-checking or tyre-kicking, as some refer to it as.

Asia export demand is still good, however. Methanol has been seen again looking to ship to the U.S. from China. Caustic, biodiesel, sulphuric acid, and some small parcels of solvents have been quoted into the U.S. while benzene was detected looking to ship to Europe. Rates are firm and typically well over $100/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Korea to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Base oils are not active on these routes unfortunately, due to price differentials. The route from the Middle East Gulf to India is rather slow on eastbound cargoes, and open space can easily be located. Westbound, however, is tight on space and rates are stable to firm.

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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