The US shipping market is gradually pulling itself back onto its feet, but it is a very slow process and there is still a lot of space left to fill. Europe had a short work week, which impacted on trade. Asian exports are supposed to be reasonably busy, but coastal markets are slow.
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Ship owners are having a torrid time booking all the remaining space on their August loaders on the U.S. Gulf-to-Asia service. All too frequently they fix but fail cargoes, only for the cargo to come back to life again. Several cargoes of paraxylene have been done this week, as well as some mixed xylenes. Styrene will not work for August loading but is being fixed for September. Ethanol, ethylene dichloride, phenol and acrylonitrile are moving, too.
Rates have bottomed out, with rates for 5,000 ton parcels seeing offers and being fixed in the low-mid $50s per metric ton. Whether freights rise or fall from here on will hinge a lot on how much concrete business materializes and how quickly owners fill their last tanks.
Transatlantic eastbound traffic is experiencing steady contractual demand, including a selection of styrene cargoes. Owners suggest some 25,000-30,000 tons of styrene in total may have been booked to Europe for the first half of August, but volumes for the second half are unlikely to match these figures. Freight levels, however, persist in the low-mid $40s/t for 5,000 ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam.
U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean activity has been a little more active. Base oils have made an appearance with cargoes quoted to Cartagena, Columbia; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Callao, Peru; and Punta Cardon, Venezuela. Other products in demand are glycols, paraxylene, ethanol, caustic and MTBE.
Trade between the U.S. Gulf and East coasts andSouth America has been rather quiet in terms of spot market demand, but, fortunately for owners, their contractual obligations are soaking up much of the available space. Some base oils have been fixing into India from the U.S. Gulf Cost. Generally, freights for 5,000 ton parcels are in the $80-85/t region, but we have heard of lower numbers done when taken as a completion cargo on a vessel already on berth and ready to sail.
Many European countries enjoyed a long holiday weekend, leaving business somewhat stranded on some routes. North Sea and Baltic orders struggled to produce enough cargo to keep the entire fleet busy. Southbound routes into the Mediterranean are steady, as are northbound legs, but inter-Mediterranean markets are quieter, and open space has developed. Freights in the Mediterranean are looking a little weaker right now.
Westbound transatlantic trade had a frustrating week. Demand for paraxylene was strong and looking as though several fixtures would be concluded, but a fire at a facility in the U.S. has effectively stalled any new business, and owners are scrambling around for replacement cargoes. Some benzene, caustic and sulphuric acid parcels were booked, and there has been some interest in cumene, orthoxylene and tertiary butyl alcohol. Freight levels are sticking in the low $40s/t for the time being for 5,000 ton cargoes from Rotterdam to Houston.
Europe-to-Far East is slow, but there is just perhaps a touch more business being settled, including acetone, paraxylene, ethanol, acrylonitrile, glycol ethers and molasses. Base oils have not been active into the Far East but have been detected on the Europe-to-India/Middle East Gulf route. Parcel-tanker rates are in the vicinity of $80/t for 5,000 tons to Mumbai, but based on Mediterranean loading on a vessel looking to fill out its last tanks it may be possible to achieve something in the $60s/t.
Overall, domestic Asia markets have not been particularly eventful over the past week, and there are even now ships that still have to find last bits of cargo within August. Owners are prepared to concede small reductions in freight, especially on inter-Far East routes. Southbound routes, too, are under pressure, and freights are weak. Northbound business is perhaps more stable and rates are unchanged.
Intra-Southeast.Asia routes are unexciting, but contractual volumes are steady enough that owners are fairly relaxed and are not willing to take cargoes from unscheduled ports or ballast more than a minimal amount to pick up spot business.
Asia export trades have shown a little more life over the past week. Benzene, urea ammonia nitrate, sulphuric acid and even some base oils have been tagged on the route to the U.S. Small parcels to Europe continue to be seen, including acetates and acrylates, which is unexpected since most of the plants that had been down in Europe and the U.S. have restarted.
Palm oil demand has diminished this week into Indias west coast, but the east coast is attracting more demand. Deep-sea palm oil business is also said to be picking up. Apart from numerous requirements out of Iran, there have been fewer larger cargoes seen from the India/Middle East Gulf region over the past week. Westbound trade is reported to be tight on space, but eastbound has space availability, and numbers are not quite as firm as before.