SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


There has not been much change this week – Asia continues to slowly reactivate, Europe is stable but not as seasonally busy as usual, and the U.S. is in a holding pattern.


Styrene has begun to appear on European-bound routes again, but only for the second half of November. All the same, there is not much open space left in the first half of the month. Rates have stabilized and are poised to strengthen should demand continue to build.

Owners are inclined to take the juiciest cargoes first, such as the 11,000-ton ethanol cargo from the U.S. Gulf to Rotterdam and Norway, which went for between $65 and $70 per metric ton; the 12,000-13,000-ton parcel of corn oil from New Orleans to Finland, which reportedly fixed in the mid $70s/t, and the 11,000-ton urea ammonia nitrate load from Donaldsonville, La., to the Great Lakes, which is claimed to have secured $60/t.

Base oils have been left in the shadows, but a 3,000-ton parcel on the main trade lane from Houston to Rotterdam would probably fetch mid $60s/t currently.

November space to the Far East is fast disappearing, with the last few remaining tanks being booked with cargoes of styrene, ethanol and mixed xylenes.

Once the scheduled carriers are full, it will be time for the outsiders to reveal their positions, but there is a very good chance those owners will be seeking significantly higher rates than the mid $60s/t that are presently being accepted for 5,000-ton parcels by the scheduled players. It has been a while since we have seen traders flirting with base oils on this route.

Base oil traders may be considering putting cargo on one of the ships that are on berth to India in the first half of November since both ships have coated tanks only – which will be difficult to fill with the usual ethylene dichloride and ethanol cargoes that are out there. Rates could be pretty advantageous as a result.

The route between the U.S. Gulf and the east coast of South America is not flourishing, but it is not totally flat either. At least three caustic cargoes have been circulated, while a cargo of cumene was noted into Brazil. Term base oil supplies are being taken into Brazil, but there is no sign yet of spot fixing. Rates are stable.

Space from the U.S. Gulf into the Caribbean remains tight until mid November, which effectively seals off the region from further imports. There is plenty of chemicals demand, with parcels of caustic, sulphuric acid, normal olefins, orthoxylene, ethanol and glycols, as well as swathes of vegetable oil that have been looking for space for the past month or so.


North Sea and Baltic trade picked up toward the end of the month and almost the entire fleet has been able to slip into November, leaving just a handful of prompt open positions.

Base oil exports out of the Baltic have moved up a gear as some experts had predicted, and there have been a number of fixtures and enquiries into the United Kingdom market as well as more West Africa business looming.

The small clean petroleum fleet is looking a little more inspired, and the number of spot chemicals requirements has been boosted by some owners committing more tonnage than usual onto the Mediterranean service, thereby creating a number of relet opportunities for other owners.

Demand for southbound vessel space has been decent, allowing both regular and opportunistic owners to cover their end of October and early November positions. There will still be some additional ships that have yet to arrive on the continent from their current voyages up from the Mediterranean, but the list of outstanding cargoes should mean that most ships will get fixed away again without too much difficulty.

Rates are not moving one way or the other, with most fixtures into the West Mediterranean or East Mediterranean being performed at rates similar to those of the previous shipment. Base oils are not so active, perhaps because product availability is not there in northwestern Europe, whereas product can be secured in the Mediterranean instead.

As with the southbound route, most northbound cargoes and ships have been booked with relative ease and at levels that are either at the previous rate or pretty close to it.

Vessel space in the West Mediterranean continues to be scarce, and good inter-Mediterranean demand – especially for biodiesel – means that owners have few worries about being left high and dry in the area. Fixtures are being conducted with minimal fuss and little change on the rate, and both charterers and owners seem satisfied.

Base oils continue to be worked into Morocco, along with all sorts of oil products, but there does not seem to have been many base oil movements out of the Black Sea. With most of the sea-river fleets making sure they are out of the Russian river systems by the end of November, there should be no shortage of available candidates for base oils, especially since most of these ships, unlike last year, will be unwilling to call Ukraine and load vegetable oils, as is customary.

There has not been a great amount of transatlantic business conducted over the past week, nor has there been a substantial amount of space. Rates are essentially flat – 5,000 tons of paraxylene was worked from Rotterdam to the U.S Atlantic coast at $44/t-$45/t, for example, with several further paraxylene possibilities also being quoted. Other grades include caustic, sulphuric acid, pyrolysis gasoline, benzene, urea ammonia nitrate and orthoxylene. Some base oils have been studied, but only for December.

There has finally been some action on the Europe-to-Far East route, and a couple of styrene cargoes managed to get fixed in the low- to mid $80s/t. Further styrene was worked but appears to have crumbled at the last minute. Traders have also been looking at paraxylene and orthoxylene from both the continent and the Mediterranean. An ethylene dichloride cargo of 10,000 tons from Stade to China was heard to have fixed in the low $80s/t. Base oils have been pretty quiet, although there have been suggestions of some special grades being done.

Space on routes to the India/Middle East Gulf region for loading in the first half of November remains pretty scarce, and owners have been raising their freight ideas, with some asking high $80s and low $90s/t for 5,000-ton parcels to Mumbai. With some deft maneuvring, this might be brought down to the low $80s/t, but rates in the $70s/t will not be available for a couple of weeks. Base oils have been noted, but none have been mentioned fixed.


There is less prompt open tonnage in the domestic Asia markets than last week, and even the list of ships open in the first half of November is gradually being reduced. Most of the individual routes see a bit more activity, and in a few the rates have inched up by a dollar or so.

There will always be some prompt open space, but the choice of tonnage for base oil charterers is not that great because most of the base oil shipments have restrictions of one kind or another, whether it is the physical limitations of the berth and/or port itself, or else the suppliers and/or receivers have vetting issues to which not all ships can comply.

Trade on some commodities is still pretty fragile, especially with Chinese consumption at lower levels, and rates are not expected to firm by much more, if at all. Moreover, the competition for space from the palm oil sector is not that great presently. Usually, the palm oil market is busier and deprives the chemicals and base oil market of useful tonnage, but this is not the case this year.

Transpacific export markets are usually all about benzene, and while there have been some quotations for second half of November shipments to the U.S., the recent monthly totals have been falling.

Traders have been toying with base oils and paraxylene from Asia to the U.S., and there are the usual cargoes of urea ammonia nitrate and biodiesel to the States, but there are also ships with space, which means that rates are soft.

The market to Europe is still pretty busy, but virtually everything is less than 5,000 tons, and often as small as 1,000 tons, which means that owners have to be judicious in choosing which ports they opt to call. Bits of space are obtainable for early November, but rates will still be in the $135/t-$170/t bracket for the small parcels.

Rates are firm from Asia to the India/Middle East Gulf region due to a wealth of demand, with many small parcels quoted, while vessel space is limited for first half of November loading. Rates are creeping upwards and it is not unheard of to be quoted $70/t for 2,000 tons of base oils from certain ports in Northeast Asia to the Middle East Gulf.

The India/Middle East Gulf region is pretty busy still, especially with small part-cargo parcels. Space for such parcels is restricted, but larger lots of 10,000 tons or so present no problem in finding suitable ships.

Several larger lots of 30,000-40,000 tons of chemicals from the Middle East Gulf to China that were quoted last week have still to be fixed, but there are also quite a few parcels of 10,000 tons or less being quoted. Many of the smaller lots have been tricky to cover, with owners picky as to which ports to call.

There has been talk of 4,000 tons of base oils being fixed from Hamriyah to Port Klang in the low $60s/t for mid November shipment.

This week, several traders have been checking rates on parcels of base oils from the Middle East Gulf into the Mediterranean, Europe, West Africa and even the U.S., although nothing has been reported fixed so far. Generally, there has not been a great deal of space around, with contractual customers maximizing space and the number of ships trading spot cargoes on this route negligible. Rates are stable.

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 12 0750 7507. In the London office SSYs Ian Roberts can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor +44 20 7977 7560 and in Singapore Jordi Maymi at +65 6854 7127.

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