SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Deep sea markets from Europe are under pressure, freight rates look weaker on almost every trade lane out of the U.S., and Asia markets were quiet due to Golden Week holidays.

U.S. Gulf

The market out of the U.S. has been grim for ship owners. Only the transatlantic eastbound route produced any noteworthy cargoes (products such as benzene and pyrolysis gasoline that would normally be shipped over from Europe to the U.S.). However, the rates fixed have been lower, with mid-$40s per metric ton heard fixed for a 5,000 ton lot from Houston to Rotterdam. Styrene has also been moving to Europe, and base oils have been studied for shipment to Nigeria from the U.S. Gulf at the end of May.

Elsewhere, rates have come down, and significantly so on the U.S. Gulf to Asia route. With many buyers away because of the widespread May 1 holidays and Golden Week in Asia, rates crumpled. In some cases, there was talk of extremely competitive levels being obtainable, but, understandably, no one volunteered confirmation. Conservative estimates have 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Mainport Far East going for low $60s/t, but a cargo that could make a dent in the 40,000 tons of the space or thereabouts that is still looking to fill from U.S. Gulf to Asia in May could achieve some very interesting numbers indeed.

The route from the U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf is also seeing lower freight ideas from owners. Less cross-Caribbean business has led to a small reduction in freight numbers, and a dull spot trade from U.S. Gulf to Brazil has prompted a small reduction here as well.


The May 1 holiday is celebrated almost universally throughout Europe and inevitably the interruption in the working week was felt quite keenly in terms of shipping demand. Not that business faded completely in the domestic European trades. Rather, it has been more a case of waiting a day, or ballasting a short way in order to pick up one of the cargoes that has been quoted. Consequently, freight levels in most of the European coastal trades are about the same as before, but another slow week would certainly have a negative impact.

The deep sea markets out of Europe are under pressure. Rates for typical 5,000 ton parcels from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East have been reduced to just over $100/t and there is quite a lot of space remaining on the scheduled carriers as well as all the outsiders looking to get away from the region. Some paraxylene, paraffins and ethanol cargoes seem to be the highlights of this weeks menu.

Europe-to-India-Middle East Gulf is steady. Following an agreement on phosphoric acid prices, there should be considerably more acid to be shipped in May than the previous couple of months. Several base oil cargoes have been spotted, and there are vegetable oil combinations from the Black Sea, too.

Transatlantic westbound is calmer this week. Paraxylene continues to be seen, and there has been a bit of base oil interest with a cargo looking to ship to Mexico. Some more sulphuric acid has been noted, but generally the feeling is that freights are slowly sinking.


With so many public holidays taking place there has not been much to report on the domestic Asia market. Base oils had a quiet spell, with just a couple of cargoes noted from Korea. A bit more demand is developing out of Southeast Asia on base oils too, but nothing has been fixed so far. Rates are soft throughout the region, especially since there are a lot of ships that can offer first half of May loading.

Palm oils are supposed to become more active into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in advance of the religious festivals there, but there has not been a great deal of evidence so far. There had been some speculation too that vegetable oil exports from the Ukraine would be negatively affected by the political uncertainty in the area and that palm oils would gain as a result, but as with base oils, this does not seem to be the case, and exports continue as normal.

Asia export trades are much quieter to the U.S., simply because producers are sold out for products that head in that direction, such as benzene. Several ships are left with May space and a firm benzene order could elicit a rate of under $60/t. Several traders have been looking at base oils to the U.S. Gulf, too, but base oil rates are not as competitive and no fixtures have been reported so far. Demand for vessel space to Europe however is quite high and there is not that much May space remaining.

The Middle East Gulf-India region has been reasonably active and even though there are a couple of prompt positions open in the area there is also quite some demand. A number of westbound cargoes are being pushed without finding suitable carriers, such as methanol, glycol, vinyl acetate monomer, ethanol and aromatics. Eastbound is fairly active too, especially when all the cargoes that have been quoted from Iran are taken into account.

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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