SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Global shipping markets remain subdued while players come to grips with crudes fall and thus, lower commodity values. There arent many reports of restocking, which is needed to kick-start the markets.

U.S. Gulf

All routes in the U.S. market appear to be stacked into a holding position.

Transatlantic eastbound is about the only route with any degree of spot activity, and that is primarily styrene, although there are reports of 6,000 tons of benzene being booked from Houston to Rotterdam at $47 per metric ton, which is a touch lower than the recent styrene rates. The same ship appears to have taken 6,000 tons of acetic acid to Antwerp for much the same kind of freight level. Overall, space remains fairly tight and rates are expected to remain in this vicinity.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East remains disappointing. Only ethanol and acrylonitrile appear as regular cargo possibilities, with hardly any aromatics looking to move. Many Asian commodity prices have fallen the fastest and there is simpluy no opportunity to make things happen.

The route from the U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf does have some space still left for November, and there are suggestions that base oils could make an entrance. Freights are typically in the mid-to-high $80s/t for 5,000 ton parcels, but some traders have found a way to undercut these levels by $20/t or so, which certainly opens the door to that market.

U.S. Gulf-to-the east coast of South America is well balanced between supply and demand for vessel space and rates are stable.

Routes going from U.S. Gulf to the west coast of South America remain heavily contracted, although all three main carriers report having some space still available for November.

U.S. Gulf to Caribbean is quiet. Base oils have been quoted into Colombia again, and there is certainly ample space available.


A busier clean petroleum market has come to the rescue of the North Sea and Baltic, stopping rates from sliding further. Bad weather has also played a part, with the remnants of hurricane Gonzalo causing the suspension of pilot services in a number of ports and disrupting vessels forward schedules. Base oils are a touch busier within Europe, perhaps because of the lower pricing needed to finalize sales.

Southbound into the Mediterranean has not been particularly active and there is ample space available.

Northbound has been enlivened by a spate of pyrolysis gasoline fixing, with well over 30,000 tons fixed and a further 20,000 tons being worked. Rates are weak in general for cargoes of 5,000 tons or more.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are extremely slow for small parcels traffic and in the west Mediterranean it is common to have 6 or 7 offers per cargo. The eastern Mediterranean is not quite the same and there are a lot of clean petroleum and vegetable oil requirements being quoted. Methanol is also becoming more active from the Black Sea. Base oils are moving into Turkey, but primarily from the Mediterranean.

Transatlantic westbound is still the most active of the deep sea routes out of Europe. Pyrolysis gasoline has been the primary product moving with a parcel fixed from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam at close to $50/t, and another 10,000 tons being worked from Fawley, England. The last one of these fixed was a smidgen under $50/t, though some are incorrectly reporting it as lower.

Some base oils have been seen looking to ship from the Mediterranean to the U.S. Gulf. Space is scarce on this route if the loading dates do not match the main carrier, with a variation of $20/t or more from what that owner is willing to accept compared to what others want.

Europe-to-Far East is still very slow. Some base oils have been looking at shipping into China, and it will be interesting to see if they get fixed. Rates out of Rotterdam to China have been a notional mid-$70s/t for spot parcels of 5,000 tons for some time now, but because contractual volumes have been maintained and contractual rates provide a better return, it may be hard to crack the $70/t barrier.

The route from Europe to India-Middle East Gulf is also beginning to see enquiries for base oils, but rates tend to be quite strong from northwestern Europe, whereas from the Mediterranean there is a growing list of ships that are on berth which have cargo space where it may be possible to secure rates in the low $60s/t for 5,000 ton parcels.


There has been a busier feel to the domestic Asia market this week. Cargoes have begun to appear that have not been shipped in any great volume for some time now. More of them have been for prompt lifting as well, but prompt space has become rather scarce in some areas such as inter-Far East, and the charterers have little choice but to postpone shipment by a week or so in the hope of grabbing some space. Surprisingly, rates do not appear to have changed much, although pressure should start to build soon, especially if colder weather starts in the north and more clean petroleum cargoes appear. Base oils have been fairly active out of the usual ports in Northeast Asia, with some additional interest from Southeast Asia.

Asia export markets continue to see some strength in freight levels to Europe, with 4,000-5,000 ton parcels often receiving offers in the $130s/t, though a scheduled carrier could work out $15-20/t lower if they have space and the dates match. Small parcels of base oils to Turkey are among the several base oil cargoes quoted to Europe, and owners contend they can fix these 1,000 ton parcels in the $160/t region. A 3,200 ton cargo of base oils from Singapore to Havre were supposedly booked for around $150/t. Benzene is being exported to the U.S. Gulf, along with methanol and urea ammonia nitrate, but rates are generally unchanged.

Palm oil markets are beginning to see more enquiries to India again after Diwali, while Chinese demand is growing too. Deep sea palm oil cargoes are steady.

The Middle East Gulf-India region market is looking livelier, with increased demand seen in local trades. Eastbound is also starting to see a bit more tightness on the vessel front and rates might start to creep up. Westbound space is already tight and rates firm, but levels are not likely to see big increases in the short term.

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 Panos Giannoulis can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor +44 20 7977 7538 and in Singapore Jordi Maymi at +65 6854 7127.

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