SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


It has all been rather slow this week. The U.S. Gulf is the region in which space is tightest and there is the most potential. Europe is strangely quiet. Asia has made little progress.


There have been many cargoes from the U.S. Gulf to Europe quoted throughout the week, causing freight rates to stiffen. Space is generally tight – the issue regarding glycol production in the U.S. Gulf has not had any noticeable impact so far, although this could still change.

Indeed, there have still been some recent fixtures of glycols to Europe, and there is still some styrene moving, although traders suggest this ought to be going to Asia instead. Rates for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to Rotterdam have increased slightly, to mid- to high $60s per metric ton.

Apart from some small amounts of space, November tonnage on U.S. Gulf-to-Far East routes is pretty well accounted for, and some owners are already unable to offer much space in December because contractual partners have maximized contractual nominations.

Ethanol is certainly the king on this route, and there are even enquiries to ship ethanol in January already being quoted. Several styrene cargoes have been fixed too and there has been interest in shipping mixed xylenes, butanols and vegetable oil.

Rates look a little bit firmer, but levels for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to Mainport Far East are still under $70/t, and even China does not command such a figure yet.

More enquiry has been noted on the U.S. Gulf-to-the east coast of South America trade lane, although some of it is not for shipment until much later, including some of the caustic requirements. Styrene is being studied but seems to be more of an arbitrage product that has not yet received the green light.

Ethanol has also been studied, but so far nothing has occurred and it seems to be a rate-checking exercise. Space is available and rates are rather weak for now.

Nothing has really changed on the U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean route. Space is still very scarce for the rest of November, keeping freight levels on a firm basis. Ethanol in the amount of 7,500 tons from the U.S. Gulf to Kingston went for around $220,000.

There have been several enquiries of aromatics into Venezuela, but owners remain wary of calling there, with some ships – including a base oil carrier – being kept at anchorage waiting for weeks on end before being allowed to discharge.


The now-familiar stop-to-start routine in the North Sea and Baltic means that some owners have been able to report a better week with their ships comfortably booked past the middle of the month. However, other owners have not been as fortunate and have been stuck with prompt open space.

Low water levels on the Rhine have been having an adverse impact on seaborne trade since material is bunched up at either end of the supply chain awaiting collection.

Base oils have been less visible from the Baltic this week, although some cross-continent moves have been detected.

The range of rates being seen on southbound cargoes into the Mediterranean is more diverse than usual. Some owners are keen to cover their ships quickly, which might help explain why 8,000 tons of biodiesel from Hamburg to Barcelona + Fos paid mid $30s/t, in spite of the cargo requiring serious vetting and only being set for arrival in early December. On the other hand, 5,000 tons of FAME from Ghent to Naples is reported to have fetched 40/t for prompt loading, at a time when there was lots of prompt tonnage.

There has not been much interest in taking base oils into the East Mediterranean this week.

The northbound market is rather flat. Most of the prompt ships managed to get fixed with cargoes such as biodiesel, caustic, cumene, glycerine, toluene, paraxylene and some in-house base oils, but the next batch of open ships is fast approaching and should therefore keep rates largely stable.

There has been another round of inter-Mediterranean fixing in the West Mediterranean, just as it began to look as though there ought to be some prompt space opening up, and once again, brokers and charterers are complaining of a lack of alternative candidates. Rates are likely to remain stable as a consequence.

In the East Mediterranean, the oil markets have had a bit of a setback with mild weather and also the larger clean petroleum tankers have been snapping up all the cargoes at rock-bottom rates, even the ones usually considered too small, which in turn is affecting the small clean petroleum fleet. Base oils continue to ship to Morocco.

An oversupply of ships on the westbound transatlantic route has brought freight rates even lower. Paraxylene cargos of 10,000 tons from Rotterdam to the east coast of Mexico was heard fixed at just $39/t, and 8,000 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Houston went for even lower than that.

As with last week, there have been a number of prompt market orders, such as caustic, paraxylene, sulphuric acid, urea ammonia nitrate, toluene and cyclohexanone, but all are overshadowed by the amount of space this month. Base oils into the U.S. Gulf have received scant interest.

It has been a busier period for ship owners with a number of Europe-to-Far East requirements noted, including paraxylene, styrene, mixed xylenes, butanols, nonene and toluene. November space has thinned out substantially, and owners have been asking for rates in the mid $90s/t for 5,000-ton parcels to China, although this still represents an intention rather than anything actually concluded at that level. Base oils have been absent again.

Once again, the route from Europe to the India/Middle East Gulf region has been busy and the amount of November space left is looking pretty depleted, even though a couple of additional ships joined the fray. Cargoes include ethylene dichloride, sulphuric acid, cyclohexanone, hexane, glycol ethers, mixed xylenes, toluene, vegetable oil and phosphoric acid.

Base oils are mostly going under term agreements, with very little spot possibilities. Owners are targeting rate increases, with 2,000-ton parcels to Mumbai or Kandla costing over $100/t now.


Prompt space has been pretty well covered on several of the main domestic Asia routes, such as intra-Northeast Asia and northbound from Southeast Asia.

The other trade lanes such as southbound and intra-Southeast Asia are looking rather slow.

Base oils have been reasonably plentiful within Northeast Asia and there have been a few parcels out from Southeast Asia but nothing of any great significance. Rates have been all largely similar to previous weeks.

As expected, benzene demand has flared up again from the U.S., but only for December. There are still a couple of November candidates for export in this direction, but owners are talking about stiffer freight rates. It now seems difficult to achieve below $70/t for small parcels from Korea to the U.S. Gulf.

Korea-to-Europe is also seeing better demand and the list of November carriers has been depleted. There are lots of small parcels, many of which are to outports in the Mediterranean. Small lots of base oils are being seen on this route.

The Middle East Gulf/India region appears balanced, with a number of prompt ships around but also a number of regional cargo requirements that remain uncovered after being quoted around for a couple of weeks.

Delays in Al Jubail and to a lesser extent in India dictate the speed at which things get fixed in this part of the world. The festival of Diwali has begun and will slow spot demand for a little while.

Eastbound business has been quieter this week and several ships have prompt completion space. Aromatics have been moving from Mangalore, Cochin and Yanbu, but to a lesser extent, while fewer large, mixed cargoes have been spotted out of the Middle East Gulf. Rates are softer.

Westbound space is tighter this week, especially out of India, but even from the Middle East Gulf there is just a handful of ships with part-cargo space. Products such as aromatics, glycols, acetone, vinyl acetate monomer, ethyl acetate, styrene, butanediol, cyclohexane, acetic acid and ethanol have been noted.

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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