SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


European deep-sea routes are still strong, while U.S. routes are without much change. Asia markets are quieter with Chinese New Year approaching. However, base oils are star performers on almost every route, as higher crude oil prices may be spurring purchases.

U.S. Gulf

As expected, rates did rise on the U.S. Gulf-to-Far East route and rates of over $60 per metric ton are being bandied about for 5,000-ton parcels going from Houston to Mainport Far East.

However, styrene is no longer the mainstay of the route due to price fluctuations and a nagging concern about credit lines. Instead, there is ethanol, ethylene dichloride, phenol, nonene, acrylonitrile, glycols and even linseed oil. Base oils have been a feature of the route, with rates to China reportedly in the mid- to high- $60s/t for 5,000-ton cargoes.

Base oils have also been active on the U.S. Gulf-to-India-Middle East Gulfroute with several larger shipments fixed, the levels for which have been in the low $70s/t for 10,000-ton chunks. Ethylene dichloride is also present, as is ethanol, which has brought several unscheduled owners into the fray and has helped preserve freights around these levels.

Transatlantic eastbound is not quite as busy without the styrene to bulk things up. Instead, we see caustic, glycols, acrylonitrile, ethanol, yellow grease, urea ammonia nitrate and aviation gasoline.

Some small lots of base oil have been seen looking to go from the U.S. Gulf to the East Mediterranean. Rates are steady, but might begin to ease off unless more cargoes come out. The Houston-to-Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam route paid $68/t, for example, for 1,500 tons of acrylonitrile, which is a little down on usual rates.

U.S. Gulf-to-the east coast of South America has logged some base oil activity, with 3,500 tons being booked into Rio de Janeiro in the mid $80s/t. Ethanol, caustic and paraxylene have been seen too. Space is fairly tight in this route and rates are unlikely to slip much.

Base oils are looking to ship back out of Brazil too, headed to either Europe, India or the U.S.

Base oils are also showing on the U.S. Gulf-to-South Africa service.

U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean had a busy week, especially on base oils, with even more material looking to go into Colombia. A cargo of 2,500 tons of base oils going from the U.S. Gulf to the Rio Haina port in the Dominican Republic was fixed in the high $40s/t.


It has been another fairly quiet week in the North Sea and Baltic, but not uniformly so. Some owners have found themselves trying to take care of prompt ships, but other owners are almost through to the end of the month and will soon start looking at fixing their March positions.

A couple of base oil deliveries were performed out of the Baltic, to European customers. Rates may ease back a bit in this region if cargo volumes are not maintained.

Southbound into the Mediterranean remains reasonably strong and rates are holding. Demand is especially varied and there is not a substantial amount of space available.

Northbound is stable. Cargoes of pyrolysis gasoline, ETBE, alkylate, vegetable oils and methanol continue to provide interest.

Inter-Mediterranean markets are judged to be quieter overall, a measure of which is that prompt open space has appeared in the west Mediterranean from time to time over the past week.

However, it is not always straightforward. A cargo of 3,000-ton chemicals from southern Spain to Turkey saw rates on low $70s/t, for example, when a more normal figure would be around $45/t. Other charterers report a similar picture – that numbers in the Mediterranean are not always as low as could be expected.

Transatlantic westbound has been busy again, with lots of aromatics going across, including pyrolysis gasoline, paraxylene, orthoxylene, mixed xylenes and a little bit of benzene, too.

Base oils are in the zone, and rates have been done in the mid- to high- $70s/t for 5,000-6,000-ton cargoes from the west Mediterranean. Fawley-to-U.S. Gulf had 6,000-ton pyrolysis gasoline going for around $60/t, which is another good marker freight.

Europe-to-Far East is buoyant. Styrene no longer features, but instead, there are requirements of ethylene dichloride, paraxylene, orthoxylene, acetone, acrylonitrile, nonene, cumene, vegetable oil and of course, base oils.

Parcels in the amount of 5,000 tons on the Rotterdam-to-Mainport Far East route have been seeing numbers in the mid $90s/t, which represents a small increase over last week. Space is rather limited for February.

Europe-to-India-Middle East Gulf has recorded a number of base oil fixtures too, especially from the Mediterranean. Space is in short supply, causing a couple of additional ships to go on berth with assorted small parcels of chems forming the base cargo.


The early signs of a slowdown on the domestic Asia market are already occurring. Owners are not finding many enquiries from Southeast Asia northbound, for example, apart from a bit of pyrolysis gasoline, benzene and some tentative base oil requirements.

Intra-Far East is not as busy as usual, at least not on chemicals, but there are plenty of base oil enquiries stretching all the way into March. Quite a lot of ships still have to cover the twilight period leading up to the Chinese New Year and the impression is that owners are snapping up any cargo that comes within range, and almost at any rate.

There was a time they could justify this because of cheap bunker prices, but even Singapore bunker levels have come up by $50/t over the past week. All the same, the feeling among owners is that the ships have to be covered and therefore any cargo is better than nothing.

Asia export markets are not going so well either. Rates to Europe are down – 10,000-ton acetic acid on the China-to-Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam route is claimed to have gone at $105/t, a substantial reduction on last months shipment. Rates to the U.S. are also rather weak, but at least there are cargoes of benzene, pyrolysis gasoline, toluene, urea ammonia nitrate and methanol.

Rates on Asia-to-India are coming under pressure, too, with a string of ships having completion space. Mid $50s/t, or even a little less, should be achievable on 4,000-5,000-ton parcels of base oils from Korea to the west coast of India.

Palm oil rates continue to drop sharply, with mid $20s/t being reported as the new level for the west coast India. There is a batch of new requirements for March being quoted currently, which might put a stop to further erosion.

The Middle East Gulf-India region had a better week by all accounts. Eastbound produced quite a lot of demand, with paraxylene, benzene, ethylene dichloride, methanol, ethanol, paraffins and linear alkyl benzene recorded.

Westbound was a bit leaner, however, and rates are understood to be declining as owners have greater difficulty in filling their ships.

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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