SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


It was a much more active week in Europe and the U.S., and even Asia has seen business start to pick up after the Chinese New Year holidays.

U.S. Gulf

There has been renewed shipping interest throughout the U.S., with all routes seeing better demand.

The transatlantic eastbound route is registering a lot of enquiries to ship styrene to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam and also into the Mediterranean. There has also been a fair amount of caustic fixed into both the Mediterranean and Northwest Europe, which will perhaps come as a surprise to those owners and charterers who also fixed caustic this week from the Mediterranean back to the U.S. Other grades include phenol, acetic acid, biodiesel, ethanol, acrylonitrile and vinyl acetate monomer. Rates have tended to be around $50 per metric ton for 5,000-ton parcels and there is an adequate amount of space for now to suggest that these levels will probably not change immediately.

The amount of enquiry on the U.S. Gulf to Far East service has increased, which will come as a relief to those owners still holding March space, and indeed there is quite a lot of open space available.

Perhaps strangest of all the cargoes is benzene. At least one cargo of benzene has been fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Korea, allegedly in the high $40s/t for 6,000 tons, with further requirements being attempted.

Ironically, benzene has also been fixed this week from Korea to the U.S. Gulf. Mixed xylenes have at last started to appear on the cargo lists to Asia and there is still a steady flow of ethanol. No new base oil shipments have been noted in this direction.

Base oils have, however, appeared on the U.S. Gulf to Caribbean route, with 2,000 tons looking to ship from the U.S. Gulf to Colombia and a further volume is seeking space in response to the latest tender into Venezuela.

U.S. Gulf-to-the east coast of South America is considered to be slightly firmer these days, thanks to ethanol shipments from the U.S. Gulf to Brazil. Caustic, too, is fairly active, with 8,500 tons believed to be fixed from Mississippi to Munguba, Brazil, in the $70s/t.

U.S. Gulf-to-India/Middle East Gulf is not quite as busy in terms of base oil but there are still plenty of large ethanol and vegetable oil cargoes moving in this direction.


There has been much more of a buzz in the European coastal markets this week.

In the North Sea and Baltic, a large number of owners have already succeeded in employing their ships into the second half of March. On the base oil front, there have been bits and pieces coming out of the Baltic and some of the cargoes have been taking a little bit longer to cover because the choice of tonnage is less and owners have become more bullish in their freight ideas.

Southbound into the Mediterranean is busy, with a wide range of commodities being quoted. Base oils are present with mostly term shipments, although it is worth remarking on the size of some of these cargoes. The usual cargo size tends to be 4000-7,000 tons, but this week there is one cargo of 9,000 tons of base oils to Italy. Rates into the Mediterranean are looking firmer.

Northbound is also looking stronger – 4,000 tons of easy chemicals from Algeciras to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam cost a mighty 30/t, but this route is desperately short of prompt loaders.

Inter-Mediterranean business is also clocking up sizeable freight increases for much the same reason. A parcel in the amount of 2,000 tons of easy chemicals from Algeciras to the west coast of Italy settled at a level believed to be in the 40s/t, while 2,000 tons of aromatics from the west coast of Italy to Turkey fetched mid 40s/t. Both are substantial sums and well above usual numbers. Base oils are being quoted into Turkey but are also struggling to find the right kinds of ships on suitable loading dates.

Transatlantic westbound has been fairly busy with a couple of paraxylene cargoes being fixed in the high $40s/t. An MTBE cargo of 5,000 tons was done from Rotterdam to Houston at a level understood to be in the high $40s-low $50s/t region. Traders have been tinkering with toluene on this route, and earlier there were several benzene possibilities, but in reality, the interest in benzene was soon shelved. Base oils continue to be quoted to the U.S. Gulf, as well as to Punta Cardon.

Europe-to-Far East is moderately busy. Aromatics have been represented with enquiries of benzene and mixed ethylenes, and ethylene dichloride continues to get fixed. Base oils have been on the fringes, though. Rates for 5,000-ton parcels from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East are holding in the low- to mid- $90s/t. Demand is steady on the Europe to India/Middle East Gulf service, but space is pretty tight which is giving an upward feel to freights.

Base oils do feature, with at least 5,000 tons fixed from Italy to Mumbai. Other requirements include acetic acid, phenol, hexane, aromatics, solvent naphtha C9, cyclohexane, nonene, 2-ethylhexanol and ethylene dichloride.


There is a more active feel to domestic Asia markets, which is reflected in the dwindling amount of prompt open space.

Northbound is one of the busier routes, with cargoes of styrene, pyrolysis gas, paraxylene and base oils quoted. Rates are probably unchanged throughout the region but upward pressure will gradually be brought to bear should demand continue to build.

Inter-Far East, too, has had a healthy injection of new business, including some 10,000-ton chunks of xylene into China which will soon deplete the market of spare capacity. Base oils are noted in both the inter-Asia area as well as southbound from Korea.

Asia export markets are a little softer if anything this week, in spite of the benzene shipments to the U.S. There has also been a number of urea ammonia nitrate movements from China to the U.S. and traders are starting to look at methanol to both Europe and the U.S. again, but equally there is still quite some space available this month, added to which the palm oil market remains subdued. There are some tentative requirements for later March which could signal that demand for palm oil is about to restart, but currently there are plenty of ships available to cover every route.

The Middle East Gulf/India region has enjoyed another week of reasonable demand, and in some cases, rates seem to be slightly firmer, notably on some of the regional trades and also the westbound route back to Europe.

Styrene, methanol, ethanol, ethylene dichloride, paraxylene, benzene and linear alkyl benzene have all been quoted westbound.

Eastbound has produced some noteworthy volumes too, with charterers looking for large combined cargoes totalling 20,000-25,000 tons apiece. There have been numerous fixtures of benzene, paraxylene and pyrolysis gasoline from India to Asia, although rates are fairly weak at the moment.

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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