SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


There is still substantial activity in European coastal markets, although not at the same pace as the previous week. Asia has also had increased activity, while the U.S. remains rather flat.

U.S. Gulf

Styrene continues to be a hot item on the eastbound routes, and thanks to demand for products such as acetic acid, phenol, acrylonitrile and glycols, this route is probably the most active of all U.S. routes. Rates are generally firm, with levels much the same as last week. The only base oil noted has been an enquiry to ship 12,000 metric tons to Nigeria.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East remains sluggish. The last of the March positions have just about managed to fill up, but they had to stoop to taking vegetable oils, for example. April enquiries have not yet really appeared on the scene, which leaves a question as to the direction of rates. Currently, 5,000-ton parcels are fetching in the upper $50s per metric ton to Mainport Far East destinations. Ethanol is still the main commodity moving, with the occasional slug of ethylene dichloride, phenol, butanols, glycols and acrylonitrile. Base oils do not feature at this stage.

U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean market is half-decent, with a mixture of requirements, including some small base oil opportunities to Rio Haina in the Dominican Republic and to Colombia. Yet more fog in the Houston area, however, has created a level of confusion, with many ships stuck for days on end and inevitably there have been some voyage cancellations or rerouting of vessels.

U.S. Gulf-to-the east coast of South America is performing well in terms of contractual demand, which means that space is pretty tight on the main scheduled vessels. There are some small parcels of base oil looking to go down to Brazil which might end up being picked up by an outsider since there are several parcels of caustic, ethanol, paraxylene and styrene now being quoted in that direction. Rates are all seemingly appealing.

U.S. Gulf-to-India/Middle East Gulf saw a couple of base oil requirements quoted from Lake Charles and Pascagoula in the 6,000-9,000-ton range, but the general view is that nothing is serious at the moment, and with supplies in the U.S. Gulf being rather tight it may be hard to assemble such volumes. Some styrene has been quoted in this direction, but it too seems uncertain.


The North Sea and Baltic area continues to provide quite a lot of spot fixing opportunities for owners, and in some cases it has been quite a tough job for charterers to cover their prompt requirements. There is also a growing reluctance from ship owners to fix in Euros due to its collapse against the U.S. dollar, and where compelled to take Euros they are looking for an increase of 5-7/t on the longer voyages.

Southbound has maintained a constant flow of material into the Mediterranean, and rates tend to be on the firm side. For 3,000-ton parcels of base oils from Rotterdam to Marmara, regular owners say they are obtaining mid $70s/t, which is around $10/t up since the beginning of the year. Rates into the West Mediterranean are also quite firm, with levels in the $40-50/t area.

Northbound is still quite busy and since the Mediterranean is tight on available space it also means that there are often fewer candidates available for cargoes going back to the continent. In terms of base oils, most movements this week are in-house shipments, with some traders looking at sending cargoes up to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam for transhipment purposes.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are still tremendously active, although things are not quite as tight in terms of vessel availability as they were a week or so ago. Space has become accessible in the East Mediterranean in particular, although the West Mediterranean situation is still as tight as before and looks that way until April.

Rates in the West Mediterranean are therefore very firm and there are plenty of cases where charterers have delayed things in the hope of securing a more competitive offer, only to have no ship at all and still ending up paying significantly more. Base oil activity has been steady in the region, with more parcels being noted from the East Mediterranean in particular.

Transatlantic westbound continues to see a variety of chemical cargoes, but rates have peaked due to the extra number of ships being put on berth by outsiders. A 5,000-ton cargo of paraxylene from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic coast, for example, ended up in the high $40s/t (as completion cargo on a ship that took a spot cargo of sulphuric acid), compared to recent numbers at around $50/t.

In addition to paraxylene, there have been cargoes of benzene, which have been paying high $30s/t for cargoes of 15,000 tons or more, toluene, mixed xylenes, pyrolysis gasoline and sulphuric acid. Base oil transactions have been minimal this week.

Europe-to-Far East is still subdued and rates are static. Paraxylene traders favor selling to the U.S. instead of Asia, although orthoxylene continues to be seen, along with butanols, acetone and soy bean oil. Base oils trading is slim.

Europe-to India/Middle East Gulf has registered stronger demand this week, particularly in the small chemical parcels trade. Several additional carriers have come on berth for loading over the next three weeks, which has prevented rates from soaring, although they are pretty firm nonetheless. It is conceivable to see rates in the $90-100/t range for parcels of 3,000-4,000 tons of base oil from the West Mediterranean to India, for example.


Domestic Asia markets have continued to build momentum over the past week, and space has become scarce in some areas. Bad weather has not helped, and in the Yangtze region owners report taking nine days to discharge cargoes due to the poor weather.

Intra-Far East seems to be one of the busier areas with more requirements for aromatics noted. Base oils are still quite active out of Korea, but some large shipments of base oil from Southeast Asia may have displaced some demand. Shipments of 9,300 tons of base oils Singapore to mid China and north China are reported to have fetched just $38/t.

Southbound has not been very exciting, and several ships can accommodate parcels.

Asia export markets have been calm this week. Benzene flows to the U.S. have abated, although there are some urea ammonia nitrate and sulphuric acid shipments still taking place. Several ships have space from Northeast Asia to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam as well, although these ships will rarely call at unscheduled ports. Rates in general have slipped very slightly, but are still over $100/t for 5,000-ton parcels.

Palm oil has rebounded over the past week. An increase in the export tax for Malaysian palm oil in April has prompted traders to push hard to secure ships able to load in March, and they have not objected to paying higher freights, the extra duty more than offsetting the freight increase. Most cargoes have been aimed at India, although Chinese buyers have been out booking space too.

Deep-Sea palm oils see a more leisurely upward trend, except in the really large sizes which are easily covered by the new medium range clean petroleum tankers coming out of the shipyards in Asia.

The Middle East Gulf/India region has been active and owners are more bullish on their rate ideas. Regional trades between India and the Middle East Gulf have seen owners offering at rates that are easily 10-15 percent higher on average.

Eastbound space is scarce and owners have been pushing freights up there by $2-3/t.

Westbound space is minimal, but rates have not changed.

Adrian Brown is a 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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