SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Despite some fresh demand, especially on deep-sea routes, European activity is perhaps eclipsed by the U.S.s. Asia, however, still lags – a surge in demand before the Lunar New Year is increasingly unlikely.

U.S. Gulf

Styrene has again been one of the mainstays behind U.S. exports this week.

At least 22,000 tons of styrene has been fixed from the U.S. Gulf to the Far East with further cargoes being worked. Rates initially started off in the mid $50s per metric ton, but numbers are expected to lift into the $60s/t, especially given the amount of other cargoes that have been quoted. There are possibilities for ethylene dichloride, acrylonitrile, phenol, and ethanol as well as some larger base oil quotations to China.

January space has now all gone and owners are looking at their February positions. However, many of the requirements have been for prompt loading but February has a different set of pricing structures, so well have to see how much business actually materializes.

Transatlantic eastbound also drew forth a lot of interest in styrene, with several parcels fixed. Rates are essentially in the low $50s/t for Houston loading, with Mississippi and other outports bumping up those levels by a further $5/t. Acetic acid, ethanol, cyclohexane, caustic, vinyl acetate monomer, vegetable oil and molasses have joined the fray.

Base oils have part of the cargo mix on the U.S. Gulf to the east coast of South America route. Rates have not really changed much, with 5,000-ton parcels to Santos going close to mid $60s/t. Caustic, ethanol, styrene, acetone and urea ammonia nitrate have been noted on this route.

The route from the U.S. Gulf to India-Middle East Gulf has seen some base oil enquiries, and with large slugs of ethanol moving on this trade lane there is scope to piggyback some base oil as well.

U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean recorded a lot of base oil action, especially into Colombia. Owners who regularly trade on this route comment that they have booked three or four times more base oil over the past 4-6 months than they usually do. Mexico, too, is understood to be looking at base oil imports.

Space is fairly tight on the U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean market and rates are firm.


The North Sea and Baltic region has not been as prolific over the past week and a few more prompter positions have begun to show. For the most part, rates have hovered around last-done levels, although some of the bigger cargoes of urea ammonia nitrate and vegetable oil have seen $3-$4/t added to the usual figures.

Base oils have been more active from the Baltic, with five or six ships fixed.

Southbound into the Mediterranean has also seen a number of spot base oil requirements, mostly to Turkey but also towards the Black Sea. Demand for space is fairly strong and rates are generally firm, but from time to time, it is possible to connect with a ship that needs to get back into position, in which case numbers in the low 30s/t might apply for 3,000-ton parcels towards the Spanish Mediterranean and 55/t into the East Mediterranean. Owners may also be more willing to consider payment in U.S. dollars too, given the weakness of the Euro and that bunker prices are always in U.S. dollars.

Northbound is strong from the Mediterranean and levels of 40/t have been seen on 4,000-ton parcels from the Central Mediterranean to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

Inter-Mediterranean markets have been a little slower than of late, which has allowed a few deals to be done at lower numbers, but the majority of owners still see plenty of alternatives and therefore are hanging on to firm freight ideas. Base oils have been fairly active with the first shipment appearing to Egypt from the West Mediterranean, as well as a couple of pending Turkish sales.

Transatlantic westbound has not been as busy as the previous one but rates are holding. Paraxylene, sulphuric acid, urea ammonia nitrate and MTBE have been among the larger cargoes seen. Base oils have been present, with possibilities into Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and the United States Gulf, and several sales into West Africa pending.

Europe-to-Far East has been boosted by large quantities of styrene and ethylene dichloride, filling all the January space and causing February rates to rise. Owners have been settling 5,000-ton parcels in the low- to mid- $90s/t, but numbers of $105-115/t have been quoted for February loading. Base oils have been noted, but mostly smaller lots to China.

The route from Europe to India-Middle East Gulf is busy. Vegetable oils are especially active and account for a lot of space. Phosphoric acid prices into India have been settled and stainless tonnage is being snapped up as a result. Some base oils have been discussed, but not to any great extent so far.


Whilst it has been a little busier on the domestic Asia market, to the extent that virtually all of Januarys space was finally taken care of, the amount of new enquiries has not rocketed in advance of the Chinese New Year. With just a couple of weeks left to go to have the material in-tank, there is a feeling that buyers are content to let things slide until after the holidays, particularly if commodity prices drift around where they are currently.

From a base oil perspective, there are still quite a lot of short trips still to be covered, and the list of cargo enquiries for shipping space out of Korea is fairly long. Parcels of 3,000 tons of base oils from Korea to Mid China are expected to fetch low- to mid- $20s/t. There are also a number of slightly longer base oil voyages being quoted, including some from Northeast Asia southbound in addition to voyages northbound to China from Southeast Asia.

Asia export markets have been fairly busy, helped by a steady volume of benzene to the U.S., as well as methanol and urea ammonia nitrate fixtures. Cargoes to Europe are mostly of larger lots of acids, acrylates, vinyl acetate monomer, isopropanol and speciality solvents. Owners are fairly bullish and it is common to see levels between $100/t and $150/t depending upon load and discharge ports.

Several base oil cargoes have been seen from Southeast Asia, with rates in the low $90s/t for 6,000-ton pieces, but are regular volumes and not spot sales.

Palm oil demand is subdued these days, with little happening into either India or China, and much on the long-haul routes to the west either.

The Middle East Gulf-India region remains slow too, with rate levels generally inching down.

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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