SSY Base Oil Shipping Report

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Space is surprisingly tight in July on the majority of U.S. routes. The summer lull is still a little way off for Europe, while there have been mixed messages in Asia, with positive signs and some less-encouraging ones, too.

U.S. Gulf
Activity out of the U.S. is buoyant on many of the main routes. Space is also quite tight for July, which could have been expected to impact freight rates, but this situation occurred in May as well, and back then there was no real change in the freight structure, probably because demand levels peaked before the end of the month and there was no impetus to drive up rates. We shall have to see what happens in July.

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Ostensibly, U.S. Gulf to Far East has hardly any space until end of July or early August, yet rates have rolled over from the previous week with no change.

Base oils continue to be quoted from the U.S. Gulf and U.S. Atlantic Coast into Asia.

U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf is also tight on July space and there have been some enquiries and fixtures for base oils.

Transatlantic eastbound was beginning to see a number of benzene requirements prior to the U.S. Independence Day, but they appear to have evaporated now that everyone is back at their desks. Space is tight on this leg too, and an onslaught of benzene could have pushed up the rates. As it is, numbers remain unchanged.

U.S. Gulf to the east coast of South America is reported to be even tighter on space than last week, probably because the Caribbean and transatlantic clean petroleum markets have recovered and rates have moved up in those spheres. Part-cargo space is almost non-existent until end of July or early August and there have been a mix or cargoes around, including some base oils. Rates are assessed in the mid-high $70s per metric ton for 5,000 metric ton cargoes of no-heat base oils from Houston to northern Brazil.

Europe
Nothing has really stood out as being exceptional in the North Sea and Baltic. The list of cargoes to be moved is very much a mix of the usual. Contractual volumes seem to be a bit stronger, or at least there seem to be fewer of the regular ships open in prompt positions.

Southbound markets have, however, been characterised by the amount of products associated with gasoline blending, and there have been some pretty large shipments of MTBE and ETBE to Spain, France, Libya, Algeria, Greece and Turkey. Base oils have been trying to keep up, but there is a lot of demand for vessel space, including cargoes of caustic, ethylene dichloride, acrylonitrile, styrene, ethanol, paraxylene, orthoxylene, alkylate and vegetable oils, which means that rates for base oils are not as attractive as they used to be. Waiting a while might bring back rates into the $60s/t for 3,000 ton cargoes from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the Marmara region.

Northbound from the Mediterranean has been favourable for the owners and a useful range of commodities have been shown around looking for space. Rates are steady.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are in good shape and defying the summer when things tend to quieten down. Well-approved tonnage is at an advantage for Mediterranean trading. Turkey is beginning to buy more base oils too, following the delayed implementation of new import regulations which will take effect in January.

Transatlantic westbound has been perhaps the quietest of all the European routes, but this is expected given the public holidays in the U.S. Rates look weak and could weaken further unless more business appears soon.

Europe to Far East has hardly any space available for the first half of July, and demand is not completely flat. All the same, rates have dropped slightly following the decision of one owner to agree to levels in the mid-high $80s/t for 5,000 tons of easy chemicals from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East. Base oils should cost slightly more than that, but not over $100/t.

Europe to India-Middle East Gulf demand has strengthened, particularly among the traffic in small parcels, making July space very scarce. Rates remain firm.

Asia
Some domestic Asia routes have seen a bit more enquiries, whereas others have seen less.

Inter-Far East has been one of the losers, with a drop in demand for the typical 3,000-5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals. Rates for 3,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals from Ulsan, South Korea, to mid-China stand at $26-28/t, but would be more like low $30s/t for heated base oils.

A number of base oil enquiries have been seen southbound from China and Korea into Southeast Asia. They are competing for space with cargoes such as caustic, ethanol, methanol, aromatics, ketones and styrene.

Northbound has generated some larger aromatics cargoes, and there have been some base oil shipments moving up out of Southeast Asia. Numbers appear to be stable.

Asia export markets have entered a quieter phase. Benzene arbitrages are considered likely to open to the U.S., but remain closed for now. Sulphuric acid requirements have been noted to the west coast of South America from Japan and Korea, but seem to have difficulty locating tonnage. There may be a chance to piggyback with some base oils, depending upon what tonnage gets fixed on the acid requirements.

Several ships are looking at going on berth to Europe, but most requirements are small and owners are reluctant to risk not being able to complete. Palm oils are quieter in the direction of India, which could provide an opportunity for base oils to capture some of the space instead. Rates on 5,000 ton parcels of base oils from Singapore to the west coast of India are assessed as low-mid $40s/t, but going further to Jebel Ali will boost those levels to mid-high $50s/t because of the extra cost of de-slopping at Fujairah.

The westbound market from the Middle East Gulf-to-India region is stable. Outsiders going on berth have been fairly quick to fill with cargoes of base oil, ethanol, ethyl acetate, methanol, glycols and styrene.

Eastbound is not that busy for July but August is already seeing some larger requirements surface. Rates are deemed to be stable.

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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