SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The Lunar New Year festivities dulled all markets – not just those in Asia. Both Europe and the Americas were much quieter than normal.

U.S. Gulf

It has been one of the quietest weeks in the U.S. for a long time and none of the main trade lanes really showed any vigor.

Transatlantic eastbound was one of the more interesting routes, with styrene showing up early in the week. Maybe one cargo of 5,000 metric tons was booked in the upper $40s per metric ton, but none of the other requirements is believed to have materialized.

U.S. Gulf-to-Far East was understandably slow, the only real interest being for some styrene, ethanol and phenol.

U.S. Gulf-to-India-Middle East Gulf has been busy in terms of base oils, with several larger fixtures coming to light and further shipments in the planning stage. The base oil cargoes are reported to have gone in the low $70s/t, but a 10,000-ton cargo of ethylene dichloride that was taken to help fill the space on the ship was reported to have gone in the $60s/t, although this still has to be verified.

Nothing much has been taking place this week on the U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean and U.S. Gulf-to- the east coast of South America routes. A base oil cargo was booked into Brazil in the mid $70s/t for a 4,000-ton cargo, which is actually one of the few spot market deals done on this route all week.


Virtually all the coastal markets in Europe have been lethargic this week.

Much of the business in the North Sea and Baltic has been routine, which at least means that there is not a stack of idle ships open, but there are certainly enough prompt ships to deal with any requirement that does come out. Until now, base oils had been moving out of the Baltic at a steady rate but only some small lots were done this week down to the continent with perhaps some more moving to deep-sea destinations.

Europe-to-Mediterranean had a very poor week and a number of ships have been looking for completion cargoes.

Northbound saw a late rally with a number of charterers queuing for ships that can ensure they load within February, which might cause a slight uptick in freight levels in due course.

Inter-Mediterranean business had one or two bright moments and several cargoes were seen being quoted over and over again, but in general, there is ample supply of tonnage available.

Transatlantic westbound was largely static. The rate levels on the business that did get done were much the same as before – 5,500 tons of easy chemicals going from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf secured upper $40s/t, for example.

Europe-to-Far East was quiet, which was to be expected.

Europe-to-India-Middle East Gulf has been reasonably busy with a number of base oils cargoes noted. There is quite a lot of demand from other products such as aromatics, vegetable oil, phosphoric acid and solvents, which means that freights are at least comparable to the previous week.


As a result of the Lunar New Year holidays, there is not much new to mention about the domestic Asia market. The majority of ships did in fact manage to book through until the first or second week in March, which is a reasonable accomplishment. Moreover, many of the small base oil requirements that were quoted just before the holidays have come back to life, just with new dates in March.

It is perhaps a little too soon to consider whether freight levels have sagged. Perhaps for the small lots of 1,000-2,000 tons, the rates will probably be unchanged, but for example, a larger cargo of 8,000-10,000 tons of base oils from Singapore to Hong Kong that was quoted this week has attracted a lot of interest from the owners and the cargo is believed to have been provisionally fixed in the mid- to high- $20s/t. The same cargo fixed last month is understood to have gone for $30/t.

The palm oil market is undeniably poor and this may exert further downward pressure on the chemicals and base oils sector.

Asia export markets have also been recording lower levels. At least four or five ships are lined up to go to Europe but all can still offer completion space. Cargoes of 4,000 tons of easy chemicals from Southeast Asia to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam are reported to have gone at $97/t, which is arguably lower than at the beginning of the year. The market to the U.S. has still to restart, while rates to India and the Middle East Gulf are dropping.

Surprisingly, the Middle East Gulf-India region has been busy with quite a lot of cargo quoted, and much of it for prompt loading. Bad weather in the area may be partly responsible and as ships get delayed and cancelled, their cargoes come onto the market, but many of the new requirements have been totally fresh cargoes and owners with prompt ships might therefore be able to negotiate a slight premium on the rates.

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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