SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


It has been another slow period with very little occurring from the United States. Europe is rather quiet too and freights have dropped in both areas. Asia is a little more comfortable on some routes but on others there is little happening.

U.S. Gulf

There is a build-up of open prompt ships in the U.S. Gulf that have got nowhere to go and which are offering on just about anything, even if the quantities are smaller than the owners would normally consider, or in directions that the owners would not usually contemplate. In some case, the rates are substantially lower than normal.

Transatlantic eastbound for example has seen some aggressive behavior by owners who have been attempting to undercut the competition. A couple of large slugs of caustic, fish oil and acetic acid to Europe have provided the ingredients. Some styrene was booked too, but benzene flows have tapered off. Rates are in the low $40s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East has a substantial amount of open space among the regular carriers over the course of the next week or two, but there is hardly anything being quoted. Neither styrene nor aromatics are workable. Ethanol is being attempted, but only for June. Ethylene dichloride is about the only other commodity that seen any real action. Owners are attempting to hang on to freights in the high $60s and low $70s/t for 5,000 ton parcels but it seems a foregone conclusion that rates will drop soon.

In the U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean trade, there are a number of open positions and not much apart from edible oils and urea ammonia nitrate with which to fill it. U.S. Gulf-to-East Coast South America may see some developments in ethanol, but it is a little early to predict with any confidence.


It depends very much on the clientele that owners trading in the North Sea and Baltic have got as to whether they are busy or not. Some report a string of prompt open positions, but others say they have employment through to the third week in May. Freight rates are keen, however, which reflects the amount of prompt open space.

Southbound into the Mediterranean is still relatively busy. Parcels of aromatics, caustic, biodiesel, ethanol and acrylonitrile are among the parcels that have been worked this week.

Northbound has been uninteresting apart from large lots of methanol from the Black Sea to Rotterdam that were under consideration in anticipation of emptying the storage tanks should events in the Ukraine escalate.

Inter-Mediterranean markets had a few quiet days but then business responded and by end of the week many of the prompt ships had been covered. Base oils have been slow in the Mediterranean while in the Black Sea only material from Batumi has been seen.

Transatlantic westbound has been calm. A couple more paraxylene parcels are understood to have been booked, but apart from sulphuric acid the cupboard is bare. Freights are weak as a result and 5,000 ton parcels from Rotterdam to Houston are subject to rates in the mid $40s/t.

Europe-to-Far East is largely notional. Several ships still have May space but demand is confined to just small parcels of chemicals. Base oils have been discussed but nothing seems to have been booked.

Europe to India-Middle East Gulf also has base oils on the menu, which is just as well as there is not very much else apart from vegetable oil. Even phosphoric acid movements have been disappointing.


Things have been slow again on the domestic Asia market. Chinese demand has reduced considerably to the extent that a number of aromatic production sites situated in Asia have been forced to suspend operations due to poor demand. Base oils however have not been too badly affected and there are shipments taking place from Korea southbound as well as movements into China and sailings back up from Southeast Asia into China. There are relatively prompt open ships, and so freights are competitive.

Asia export markets have also seen base oils worked to both Europe and the U.S. Gulf. Close to 9,000 tons of base oils from Korea to Antwerp have been seeking vessel space in the $90s/t region, which is comparable to some of the recent benzene shipments, except that benzene is an easier cargo for owners to transport. Space is tight for the rest of May to Europe, but there are still ships that can take cargoes to the U.S.

Palm oil demand has distinctly improved and rates have lifted to India. Deep-sea palm oil demand is stronger too, with cargoes seen to Europe, U.S., Africa and South America, and is one of the reasons why freights are rising for base oils and chemicals.

The Middle East Gulf-India region is fairly quiet locally and there are several prompt ships looking for delaying cargoes but without success. Westbound remains fairly strong. For example, 10,000 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Middle East Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam seems to have gone for around $80/t. Eastbound is not so active, however, and there are few larger lots available. For example, 5,000 tons of aromatics from Middle East Gulf to Southeast Asia were reported to have paid mid $50s/t by way of indicative levels.

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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