SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


U.S. markets continue to look lively, particularly towards Asia. European coastal markets are depressed but the deep-sea routes are generating some business. Asia looks to be in a holiday mood.

U.S. Gulf
It has been another week of strong demand on the U.S. Gulf to Far East route. Styrene has been the main commodity in contention, with at least 20,000 metric tons booked so far and with a further 30,000-35,000 tons looking to ship still within August.

Vessel availability has become an important issue, however. The amount of open space still within August is negligible and September projections of space portray a similar picture, at least at this stage.

Parcels in the amount of 5,000 tons of easy chemicals from Houston to Mainport Far East have been fixed in the region of low-mid $70s per metric ton for early August but several owners feel that high $70s/t or even $80/t should be the starting point for September.

Base oils had been seen for a while but it is thought that tighter availability and higher domestic prices may stunt the enquiries.

Space is almost full on the U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf service too. For what bits of space remain open, owners are talking of rates in the $115-120/t region. Some base oils had been noted and whilst Indian demand has yet to be satiated the same product availability and pricing problems exists. Base oils continue to form part of the diet for ship owners on the U.S. Gulf to eastern coast of South America service, along with caustic and clean petroleum. Rates for 5,000 ton cargoes are currently around $70/t, and perhaps a shade more for parcels that require specific loading dates.

Demand for space is strong on the U.S. Gulf to Caribbean route with cargoes quoted such as acetone, caustic, styrene, vinyl acetate monomer, ethanol, orthoxylene, cyclohexane, vegetable oil, tallow and base oils. August space is already looking quite tight and not all the cargoes can be accommodated. Relatively few outsiders are fully open in the U.S. Gulf during the month to come to the rescue.

Transatlantic eastbound has been largely quiet this week and with a large amount of open space still in play rates have started to succumb. Parcels of 5,000 tons from Houston to Rotterdam can now achieve around $40-41/t, which represents a sizeable drop over the month.

The markets along the North Sea and Baltic have been terribly dull with plenty of open ships gathering dust. Southbound into the Mediterranean has not provided much of an escape route for owners hoping to avoid the worsening market in the north. Styrene, MTBE, FAME, ethanol, acrylonitrile and vegetable oils are among the main products quoted.

Base oils seldom feature, but once the Bayram celebrations in Turkey have ended and people are back at their desks on August 12we hope to see more business develop into Turkey.
Northbound is extremely dull and several prompt ships have been pushing hard for completion cargoes all week but without success.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are very mixed up. There are certainly more prompt ships around yet some of the rates fixed, especially West Mediterranean to East Mediterranean have been very strong, including some base oils that went in excess of 150,000 for 5,000-6,000 tons. Even simple chemical and biodiesel cargoes have been fixing at strong levels.

Transatlantic westbound went through a bit of a revival too. At the beginning of the week there were several ships all seeking prompt cargoes. By end of the week, they had all fixed something and the next wave of carriers were therefore aiming to hoist rates from the low $40s/t that had been discussed at the start of the week to closer to mid $40s/t, based on 5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals from Rotterdam to Houston. Biodiesels appeared to be the main product, with a bit of caustic too.

Space has become a bit tighter on the Europe to Far East service and rates have inched upwards. Paraxylene and orthoxylene cargoes have been noted, as well as a strange cargo of ethanol. Only one base oils possibility has been quoted, evidently in response to tighter product availability in Europe. A 3,000 ton parcel of easy chemicals recorded offers of $105/t basis Rotterdam to Ulsan and $110/t basis Ningbo.

Business has been somewhat sporadic on the domestic Asia market this week, no doubt partly because of the public holidays taking place in the region. Nonetheless, trade into China does seem to be expanding bit by bit, with bursts of products such as toluene, styrene, glycols and benzene, even if the overall volumes are still a long way short of where they ought to be.

Small chunks of base oils have been seen on the inter-Far East market, but most are routine shipments. Traders are concentrating on moving base oils from Southeast Asia to China.

Cargoes of 3,000 tons of easy chemicals from Singapore to mid-China command rates in the low $50s/t. Owners comment that base oils on the same route may pay fractionally more, perhaps $1/t — $2/t extra, while from Cilacap a freight of mid-high $50s/t could be considered for the same 3,000 ton cargo of base oils.

Asia export markets are under slight downwards pressure, caused to some extent by a decline in palm oil activity. The small parcels traffic from northeast Asia to Europe still pays $150-160/t but the larger cargoes are seeing some decline in rates to the U.S. Palm Methyl Ester is not as popular with the gasoline industry either and consequently more soy methyl ester is being shipped from Argentina instead.

India and the Middle East Gulf regions are naturally very quiet due to Ramadan and the looming Eid-Al-Fitr celebration. Once the holidays are over the anticipated additional demand may cause freights to rise seeing as there is not an abundance of open tonnage in the region.

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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