SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


U.S. markets have seen a slight uptick in volumes on several key routes while Europe and Asia remain mostly unchanged.

U.S. Gulf

Greater volume and a more varied range of grades have been seen from the U.S. Gulf to the Far East. April space is still obtainable but the rush of business has caused freight rates to pick up.

Mixed xylenes in the amount of 5,000 tons from the U.S. Gulf to Mainport Far East went in the low-mid $70s per metric ton, for example, and 5,000 tons of styrene from the U.S. Gulf to China fetched low $70s/t. Products such as ethylene dichloride, ethanol, adiponitrile and biodiesel have been recorded.

Transatlantic eastbound has been a touch busier too, with several cargoes of styrene, ethanol, cumene and fish oil observed. Owners are looking for values of around $50/t for 5,000 ton parcels from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, although we have yet to hear if such a rate eventually concluded.

U.S. Gulf-to-Mediterranean, however, appears to have lots of space and owners are talking mid $70s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Turkey which is a sharp decrease from the mid $90s/t that were being done a month or two ago. On the face of it there is some demand into the Mediterranean, with cargoes of styrene, ethanol, vegetable oil and biodiesel quoted.

U.S. Gulf to Caribbean has been a recipient of new business too, and while freights have not obviously jumped, space has tightened compared to last week. Base oils have been almost invisible out of the U.S. this week with no new cargoes seen in the U.S. Gulf to the east coast of South America trade lane. Rates on this route are a little weaker too. Spot demand is soft and there are several scheduled carriers that can offer April space. There are a number of potential outsiders also interested in cargoes in this direction so as to be able to positions their ships for the expected surge in vegetable oil exports that occur seasonally from April onwards. Rates for 5,000 ton parcels of easy chemicals from Houston to Santos are now in the vicinity of $70/t, though base oils may attract a slightly higher level due to the extra cleaning and heating costs.


The market in the North Sea and Baltic has not returned to full speed but there have certainly been a few more new cargoes quoted that have made some inroads into the amount of open space in the area. Biodiesel and gasoline blending type of products are the most popular, which is normal at this time for the switch to summer grades of gasoline.

Southbound into the Mediterranean has picked up pace too, with slightly firmer rates than last week. Pyrolysis gasoline in the amount of 6,000 tons from Dunkirk, France, to the west coast of Italy yielded around 40/t – an increase of around 10 percent. Base oils do feature, though still mainly term shipments.

Northbound is not terribly busy, and there is open space.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are slower too. East Mediterranean is particularly inactive and owners are struggling to find cargoes away from the area. Base oil shipments are being recorded coming out of Theodosia again, but almost all involve deep sea shipments.

Transatlantic westbound has been reasonably steady, if not actually busy. Space on the scheduled carriers has thinned to some extent and owners are pushing for levels close to $50/t for 5,000 ton parcels. So far, high $40s/t has been about the maximum paid. Paraxylene is the hottest commodity with parcels of caustic, orthoxylene, acetic acid and smaller lots of base oil making their way across.

Pyrolysis gasoline is being talked from the Mediterranean, but none has actually been seen from northwestern Europe so far.

Europe-to-Far East is fairly static, and lack of open space is one of the main reasons. Owners are being careful not to flood the route with additional units and this is keeping rates around $110/t for 5,000 ton parcels. Traders have been looking at base oils but deals are hard to conclude with such freight figures.

Base oils are also being recorded on the Europe to Middle East Gulf-India trade lane, with some shipments mentioned from the Black Sea. Several ships are potentially available, but full cargoes of vegetable oil in the $60s/t are a big attraction.


There have been more cargoes quoted on the domestic Asia market, and there are not quite so many open positions in April. Nevertheless, owners appear to be content to sit on the same rates, or even to drop them slightly. Base oils are being quoted from Korea and Southeast Asia and levels for these parcels seem to be mostly unchanged.

Asia export demand is somewhat considerable, even though methanol is now only fixing to Europe. A substantial amount of benzene was booked for April from Asia to the U.S. and to Europe, and further deals are being settled for May. Other products include palm methyl ester, cyclohexane, toluene, aniline, acids, acrylates and acetates. Some base oils have been seen looking to move to the U.S. and Europe but are mostly in-house deals. Rates to the U.S. are in the region of upper $60s/t for 5,000 ton parcels and $100 plus to Europe.

Palm oil sales have been invigorated following a reduction in commodity prices that sees the product at cheaper levels than other competing vegetable oils. The MEG-India region is fairly active and westbound is tight on April space. In spite of this, some Asian owners seem attracted to the Iranian methanol trade into Turkey and have been fixing 10,000-15,000t cargoes in the low $60s/t, a substantial reduction from the levels usually done by the regular players. The lure appears to be the vegetable oil back out of the Black Sea to India that typically pays $60s/t. However, with palm oil prices heading south that may ultimately lead to fewer Black Sea exports which could then expose a couple of interesting positions in the area from owners who are not accustomed to trading from Europe.

Eastbound is producing a number of cargoes of methanol, MTBE, styrene, ethylene dichloride, paraxylene and ethanol 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 at Adrian Brown, in the U.K., can be reached at or by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the London office SSYs Panos Giannoulis can be reached at or +44 20 7977 7538 and in Singapore Jordi Maymi at +65 6854 7127.

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