SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The U.S. had another strong week on nearly every major route. Europe has been reasonably active too, given that there have been yet more public holidays, and Asia is gradually becoming busier with fewer prompt positions.


Transatlantic eastbound has been the most active of the routes out of the U.S. this week. The arbitrage for benzene opened and 10,000 tons was heard fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Huelva at $70 per metric ton.

Styrene has been especially busy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, and there have been additional cargoes of acetic acid, caustic, phenol, vinyl acetate monomer, glycols, isopropanol and cumene.

Several small parcels of base oils have also been noted into Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam and Havre, but the strengthening freight market may make it hard to find a competitive level, since rates for 5,000-ton parcels of easy chemicals into Rotterdam are touching $70/t, never mind the extra premium that base oils would command.

The shift of focus toward Europe for many commodities has left a couple of prompt ships holding onto space into Asia, so instead of reaping even higher levels as the owners had been anticipating, rates are instead starting to slide. At this stage, it is only a small decrease because there are still some cargoes out there, such as ethanol and ethylene dichloride that remain unfixed, but should the flow of aromatics and styrene cease completely there will be some second-half of June positions that will still have to fill somehow.

Contractual volumes have been steady into Brazil and Argentina, while spot liftings have included paraxylene, caustic, ethanol, avgas, area ammonia nitrate and a number of small parcels of base oils to Santos, Rio de Janeiro and Argentina. Rates have lifted by a dollar or so.

Space on U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean routes are quite scarce until mid-late June, thanks to strong contractual volumes into Colombia. Several attempts have been made to ship base oils into Colombia but this lack of space has thwarted most attempts so far.

Base oils have also been mooted into Punta Cardon and Rio Haina, but nothing has been heard fixed so far. Owners are pretty bullish on freight levels at the moment and 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to the east coast of Mexico are almost touching $30/t.

Base oils are among the top commodities being discussed for June shipment to India and the Middle East Gulf. Rates are perhaps steady right now, with 4,000-ton parcels of base oil pegged in the high $80s/t, low $90s/t.


The North Sea and Baltic regions were quiet for the early part of the week, probably because of yet further public holidays throughout Europe, but as the week progressed more cargoes came onto the market and most of the prompt positions were absorbed. Base oils have had a busy spell out of the Baltic, with some cargoes being booked down to Rotterdam for transhipment and several more going to customers in the area. Rates have been in the mid- to high- $30s/t region for 3,000-ton parcels.

Southbound rates have been sustained by a large amount of enquiry into the Mediterranean, with a whole raft of commodities being shipped. Base oils have been mostly contractual supplies, with much of the space being taken by cargoes of MTBE, ETBE, methanol, ethylene dichloride, styrene, benzene, FAME, caustic, ethanol, acrylonitrile, sulphuric acid, vegetable oil and biodiesel. Rates are stable, with 5,000-ton volumes into Turkey paying low- to mid- $50s/t.

Northbound volumes are about the same as before, but space is tight in general and some requirements have seen substantial increases, just because there has been no alternative but to take the only ship in position.

The Inter-Mediterranean market was distinctly slower after the public holidays, and there were instances of prompt open ships. However, the past couple of days seems to have rectified the situation and there are fewer prompt positions around. Biodiesel has been very active, as have any of the products related to octane, which seems to be in great demand in the region presently.

Base oils have been part of the cargo mix, but not to any great extent. The occasional cargo has moved out of the Black Sea but the remaining movements have been contractual. The West Mediterranean region is certainly very tight on space still and rates remain firm, although they do not seem to have escalated further.

The westbound transatlantic route has oscillated once more, and most of the prompt space has gone, allowing rates to creep back up. Paraxylene is one of the main drivers, and rates in the mid $40s/t have been done for 5,000-ton parcels from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic coast. Easy chemicals in the amount of 5,000 tons from Rotterdam to Mississippi went in the $70s/t, while 9,000 tons of base oils and avgas from Augusta to the U.S. Gulf are thought to have achieved over $100/t. Cargo composed of 18,000 tons of base oils were booked from Livorno to Punta Cardon in addition.

Europe-to-Far East routes spot business has not been busy, but contracts have been okay and space has gradually tightened, causing rates to lift slightly. Aromatic cargoes of 5,000 tons from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East are known to have fetched low $90s/t. There have been some parcels trafficking but nothing major, and no real interest in base oils.

The base oils that are moving from Europe to the India/Middle East Gulf region are mostly contractual with little interest displayed in shipping spot cargoes. Rates are about the same as before.

Vegetable oils from the Black Sea are probably the main commodity these days, and ships are even seeing inducements on the rate in order to get them to ballast down from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, where they are open.


Some of the intra-Asia routes are a bit slower than others, but in general, the combination of heavy contractual demand coupled with an unexciting but steady spot market has meant that the majority of prompt ships have disappeared, with most now showing open around the second half of June, or even further forward in some cases. Rates have moved upward a bit on routes out of Korea, for example, so that 3,000-ton parcels from Ulsan to Mid China now costing $22/t-$24/t.

Southbound rates are also up a dollar or so, while northbound rates from Southeast Asia have increased by a similar amount. Base oils are not that active, but are not quiet either, and there have been a number of attempts to ship cargoes into China from all over Asia.

The Asia export situation is very much unchanged. There are a half-dozen ships looking for cargoes to Europe and a handful looking for completion cargoes to the U.S. Rates have not changed, even though some of the ships are on the point of sailing. Rates for 3,000-ton parcels to Europe are $125-$145/t and $145-$175/t for 1,500-ton lots, depending upon whereabouts in Europe.

Rates to the U.S. are around $60/t for 5,000-ton cargoes and $90/t for 3,000-ton parcels, again, subject to load/discharge ports. A couple of ships have space to India and the Middle East Gulf but numbers are all well over $50/t for larger sizes which does not find much favor with base oil traders currently.

There has been a bit of a pre-Ramadan push to ensure cargoes of palm oil arrive in India and the Middle East Gulf within the next couple of weeks and that has created some firm freight levels on these routes. Rates for palm oil into China are stable while long-haul rates to the U.S. and Europe have not really moved either.

The Middle East Gulf/India region has been busy for yet another week, and prompt space is really quite scarce. Lengthy port delays and congestion in Kandla and Al Jubail mean that neither owners nor charterers have control over exports from the region, with ships cancelled but then re-fixed for cargoes that other ships have been cancelled for. It is all rather chaotic and some owners have said they would rather ballast back to Asia than get snarled up in the mess, which again, depletes the amount of workable tonnage. Rates are firm for both eastbound and westbound cargoes, and even regional business has seen something like $10/t added to the freight bill.

Adrian Brown is a 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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