SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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The U.S. continues to generate reasonable levels of demand. Europe did not have a bad week either, and even Asia looks slightly more active.

U.S. Gulf
Owners do not have that much to grumble about when it comes to finding cargoes out of the U.S. Gulf. On the whole, the region is fairly busy and it is nowadays quite rare for a ship to be idle for more than a day or two, particularly if it can switch into the trades where there is activity.

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There are in fact several routes on which it is hard to find much space for first half of July shipment. U.S. Gulf to Far East is one such route. There are a number of larger cargoes of aromatics quoted, as well as ethylene dichloride, acrylonitrile, phenol, ethanol and biodiesel.

Base oils have also been hitting the market over the past week, with assorted enquiries to different destinations in the Far East. Rates are in the region of mid $70s per metric ton for 5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals to mainports in Korea and Taiwan, but given the tightness, these numbers could jump.

U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf is another route that is busy, and there are only small pockets of space remaining. Rates for 3,000 tons of heated base oils from Houston to Mumbai could be as high as $120/t, given the strong levels of demand. A similar sized parcel of aromatics would perhaps attain $105-110/t.

U.S. Gulf to east coast of South America continues to roll along at a fast pace, and charterers are having difficulty in finding part-cargo space available in the first half of July, although there does seem to be more tonnage open in the second half of July. Caustic, styrene, glycols, paraxylene and base oils have been noted.

A 3,000 ton parcel of heated base oils from Houston to Brazil could be expected to fetch mid-high $80s/t.

Transatlantic eastbound has not been so busy and some space remains for July, though mostly for smaller parcels. Benzene has been the backbone of this route, with the fixtures reported falling broadly into line with the levels we have shown for the past couple of weeks, namely low $40s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam.

Europe
As has become customary over the past couple of months, business in the North Sea and Baltic picked up at the end of the month, and once it became apparent that there were insufficient ships available over such a short span of time, a number of those enquiries dropped into the first week of July. Rates have not swung much either way, and only if a charterer was totally stuck would the owners have felt they could impose a premium.

Southbound into the Mediterranean has been rather dull, and a 3,000 ton parcel of no-heat base oils from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Marmara, Turkey, could be expected to go for high $60s/t or low $70s/t.

Northbound space is quite tight from the Spain/Portugal region and demand is good, although there are fewer opportunities for vessels that wish to load from the East Mediterranean. In many ways, it would be easier to book a cargo into the West Mediterranean and then try from there.

Base oils have interestingly been seen looking to ship from the Central Mediterranean to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, possibly as a way to amass a large shipment on a deep-sea route from Rotterdam to ensure a competitive freight advantage.

The Mediterranean-especially the West Mediterranean-has been busy. Gasoline-related commodities have been the most active, such as MTBE, ETBE, ethanol and biodiesel. Rates are fairly strong for loading out of the West Mediterranean.

Transatlantic westbound has stalled, with many of the enquiries from the previous week being either deferred or dropped. Demand is centred on paraxylene, caustic, acetone, cumene and pyrolysis gasoline. Rates are a little weaker, and unless more demand is forthcoming there is a chance that levels may slip further.

Europe to Far East is rather steady and rates have not dropped as some would have hoped. We are seeing rates for 5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Mainport Far East in the region of low $90s, with small lots of 2,000-3,000 tons being closer to $115/t. Outports can add to that figure, and heated base oils will certainly be running into the high $120s/t.

Europe to India-Middle East Gulf also looks steady, with demand noted for cargoes of base oil, isopropanol, cyclohexanone, hexane, heavy aromatics and vegetable oil, as well as the usual phosphoric acid. Freights for small lots of base oil from outports such as Havre or Hamburg to the west coast of India will be touching $120/t.

Asia
The process whereby owners in the domestic Asia market have managed to carve out a forward program into July has continued to the extent that the majority of vessels are now booked ahead by around two weeks. There are still some vessels that are stuck in prompt positions but there are also a number of ships that are into the third and fourth week of July.

Contractual business has been behind the strength in northeast Asia. It would seem there is some restocking taking place in China as certain commodities become scarce. However, many bulk commodities are facing lower sales prices, which might encourage buyers to hold back and so demand could fade again, once stock levels reach sustainable amounts.

Asia export demand is satisfactory on non-edible oil products, and there is a fair amount of demand from the Americas for sulphuric acid, biodiesel, methanol and aromatics, while demand to Europe is mostly contractual, as well as small parcels of solvents or aromatics such as cyclohexane.

Palm oil demand is still rather soft to deep sea destinations and space may become available as a result. Palm oil demand into India and China has eased back a touch too. In the India-Middle East Gulf arena, westbound is stable with rates unchanged.

Eastbound seems a bit more flimsy and fewer large requirements have been seen. Several ships also require completion cargoes and this may cause freights to sag a little.

Adrian Brown is senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London. Information about SSY can be found atwww.ssyonline.com. 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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