SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The U.S. is busy but little is being fixed due to a shortage of ships. Europe has quieted considerably after a busy couple of weeks, while Asia sees better demand and a slight increase in rates.


U.S. Gulf-to-Europe demand is strong and whilst there are a couple of ships with small amounts of space still within December, everything is effectively geared towards January. Styrene and ethanol, for example, are being quoted for January, as are cargoes of glycol, phenol, acrylonitrile, lysine and even a small lot of base oils from Port Arthur, Texas, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

Rates have gone up marginally, and 3,000-ton parcels from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam are now in the upper $60s per metric ton.

Far East demand far exceeds the supply of tonnage, and for a while it seemed possible that European owners would even send ships across in ballast from Europe. But rather than pay considerably more than the usual levels, charterers have instead redirected their requirements into January, where there is an adequate (if thinning) list of open ships.

A shipment of 8,000-10,000 tons of styrene fixed from Houston to Korea or China, with the Korean option paying low $70s per metric ton and the China option in the high $70s/t. No base oils are apparent for the moment.

Most December ships heading to the east coast of South America managed to fill, easing the threat of lower returns for owners this month. January has a variety of caustic, ethanol and base oil enquiries, but the ethanol especially is not firm and more space could potentially open up.

Rates are typically in the mid $60s-mid $70s/t range for 5,000-ton lots of base oil from Houston to Santos, Brazil.

Activity levels on routes to the Caribbean have increased for January, particularly with cargoes of vegetable oil, tallow and molasses. Base oils are still plugging away, with small lots quoted into the Caribbean and Mexico.

Rates are pretty strong. A cargo of 1,000 tons of linear alkyl benzene, for example, was covered from Houston to Puerto Cortes, Honduras, at $100,000.

Traders have been toying with parcels of base oil cargoes of 3,000-5,000 tons to the west coast of India, but it seems difficult to conclude the deals commercially. So far, only one of the main carriers is offering a service in January, and that ship still has a fair amount of space. The other two owners may come on berth if they can secure a base cargo.

Rates for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to the west coast of India are currently around $80/t.


The North Sea and Baltic region has cooled considerably from the first few weeks of December, and while some ships are full into January there is still a sizeable portion of the fleet left that needs one or two cargoes to be fully covered during the holiday season.

Base oils have been moving out of the Baltic on a fairly steady basis this month. As in recent weeks, most have originated from Liepaja, Latvia, but there is one more lifting confirmed from Svetle this month.

There is not much southbound tonnage left into the Mediterranean this month, and whilst freight rates have not really increased, the selection of suitable vessels has certainly narrowed and many charterers have had to compromise on loading dates.

Base oils are still moving into the Mediterranean, but they are in a minority and are overshadowed by products such as biodiesel, caustic, aromatics and ethylene dichloride.

Northbound demand has been solid on this route all month. An interesting base oil shipment took place from Spain into Riga, Latvia, while an oil major has been quoting 17,000 tons from Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, presumably as a transhipment possibility.

Owners with any space left on their ships have been able to pick the choicest of cargoes, and there is still a long list of outstanding requirements. Rates are on the firm side.

There is a feeling that the West Mediterranean is perhaps not quite as tight on vessel space as it was earlier in the month, although it is hard to define exactly why.

Biodiesel continues to be fixed from Spain, and there has been a mix of caustic requirements from Spain and France; aromatics from Lavera, France; MTBE shipments from Spain and Fos, France; and so on.

The Moroccan situation has not eased either and there are still plenty of ships allocated to this trade, keeping them away from other cargoes in the market. Base oils have been quoted into Egypt recently and it would seem there are still shipments of base oil taking place out of the Black Sea into Turkey.

Transatlantic trade has been dull over the past week, and although traders have been checking rates on benzene and paraxylene to the U.S., not that much has ended up being booked. Rates are notionally in the very low $40s/t for 5,000-ton parcels. Base oils have been largely dormant in this direction.

On routes to the Far East, the picture is pretty much unchanged from earlier in the month. Flashes of interest appear from traders looking at paraxylene and orthoxylene to Asia, but very little seems to get fixed. Rates are hanging around in the low $80s/t for 5,000 tons cargoes Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Far East.

Demand has been reasonable into India and the Middle East Gulf this month and space is somewhat limited. Several base oil opportunities have been noted, including a possible cargo from the Mediterranean to Pakistan. Rates are pretty stable.


There has been more movement within Asia over the past couple of weeks, causing freights to rise on the majority of routes.

Intra-Far East has been particularly busy. There are suggestions that Chinese buyers are stocking up in advance of the Lunar holidays that will take place in early February.

Base oils are busy out of Korea at the moment. Parcels in the amount of 3,000 tons from Ulsan, South Korea, to Mid China are fetching mid $20s/t, or even a bit higher if dates are critical.

Southbound space is also tight for the next couple of weeks and rates have risen into the mid $30s/t for 3,000-ton parcels from Korea to Singapore.

Good demand is noted on all northbound routes too, mainly with cargoes of aromatics more than base oils. Numbers here are thought to be unchanged.

There are still ships with space on the intra-Southeast Asia routes, but equally there are some base oils as well as aromatics and methanol that could mean the year will finish on a balanced note.

Asia export rates have strengthened on the route back to Europe due to the tight space situation in January. Several base oil possibilities exist, both into the Mediterranean and into Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Levels are back to around $105/t for 5,000-ton parcels from Korea to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, with owners reporting better demand from products such as biodiesel, acids and solvents.

There is still space on the Asia-to-U.S. Gulf service. Benzene has been active for a while, causing owners to review rates that were in the low $50s/t to the U.S. Gulf and instead most rate the route as high $50s/t or even low $60s/t.

Palm oil demand is weak, whether into India, China or Europe, and rates remain competitive.

The Middle East Gulf/India region has been sluggish, at least on the chemicals side. The small clean petroleum market has been reasonable and there have been some base oils interest, although not that much out of Iran so far.

Several large lots of cargo have been quoted to Asia, including ethylene dichloride, MTBE, methanol, sulphuric acid and aromatics, but there is ample space in the Middle East Gulf and rates remain soft.

There are a number of cargo requirements pending to Europe but not all seem firm and consequently this has left a few vessels still looking to fill out their remaining tanks. 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.

Related Topics

Logistics & Distribution    Shipping