SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The U.S. is still the most active region globally. Europe has been quiet for yet another week, and although Asia has seen slightly more new business quoted, its recovery is questionable.

U.S. Gulf

There has been a sudden rush for space from the U.S. Gulf to Far East, from prompt loading through to the end of August. Styrene has been the chief commodity again, although there are known to be issues with regards to product availability which might see only a fraction of the enquiries actually come to fruition. Ethylene dichloride and ethanol are still pushed around, although one large shipment to the Philippines was covered from the west coast instead.

Methanol has also been a bit busier, with several 30,000-ton cargoes having been fixed over the past week or two. Base oils, while still under consideration, have yet really to become an established product on this trade lane.

Contractual demand from across the Atlantic is proving to be strong this month, and space among the regular owners is quite tight, especially among those owners who tend to offer the cheaper freights. As mentioned in this report last week, prompt cargoes have been paying stronger levels – 8,000 tons of chemicals from two ports in the U.S. Gulf to Antewerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam went in the mid $60s per metric ton, for example; 3,500 tons of ethylbenzene from St James, Trinidad and Tobago, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam cost in the low $70s/t; and 2,500 tons of nonene from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the U.S. to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, reportedly paid in the mid $80s/t.

Further base oil shipments have been identified to Europe, in addition to those already reported last week.

On the whole, there has not been a great deal of excitement in the Caribbean. Most of the regular carriers have space in July and competition among owners for cargoes has intensified. Base oils in the amount of 1,900 tons were fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Cartagena, Colombia, after having been worked with another owner first. Bits and pieces of vegetable oil, caustic, glycols and acetone typify this area right now by way of demand.

Regarding the tender into Venezuela, it has emerged that a ship was loaded with 23,000 tons of base oils in Houston back at the end of June and that vessel has just arrived in Punta Cardon, Venezuela. There is apparently still an outstanding volume of base oil to be delivered in August.

In the South America market, it has been a mostly quiet week on the base oil and chemicals front. Ethanol is starting to be pushed around for August loading, while caustic and sulphuric acid have been noted looking to ship into Brazil. A tiny cargo of base oil was quoted into Tampa, Florida, from Brazil, but given the costs involved, it will surely end up in flexibags instead.


There has not been a great deal of change in the North Sea and Baltic region. In terms of open ships, there are probably around the same number open this week as there were last week, but more concerning for owners is that the forwards program has not progressed and ships that had managed to get themselves into second-half-of-July positions have remained more or less static and have not secured further new business. The implication is that rates will come under further downwards pressure unless a lot of new business is quoted, but so far, despite a small rise in the amount of ethanol, FAME and other gasoline-blending components, there has been too few other products out there, including base oil.

Now that the Eid ul-Fitr holidays marking the end of Ramadan are over in Turkey, traders have begun to probe the market with a number of chemical requirements. So far, base oil interest has been restrained, though the cargo mentioned in an earlier report to Egypt and Turkey was finalized in the low $50s/t. There is still a prompt cargo of 2,400 tons of base oils being quoted from Riga, Latvia, to Oran, Algeria.

There has not been a great amount of activity on the northbound service. Of note, though, has been the shortage of vessels in the Leixoes, Portugal, area, and charterers have been paying premiums on the usual rates in order to entice ships to ballast down from the Continent. Otherwise, there seems to be plenty of space for all other requirements.

A couple of owners have commented that they see greater activity in the West Mediterranean, but this is not a view shared by the majority of owners. What is true is that a number of ships have been running late on cargoes already booked and have subsequently been replaced with other prompt ships. This might give the impression of fewer vessels, but there are still a lot of ships open in the area within a week to 10 days time, which should evoke some weakness in freight rates.

Eastbound transatlantic rates have taken yet a further dive with a report that 5,000 tons of paraxylene from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast has been fixed at just $30/t. Another fixture, which incorporated 1,000 tons of base oils along with 5,300 tons of chemicals, loading from several ports and berths in the United Kingdom to several ports in U.S. Atlantic Coast – Houston and Mississippi – concluded in the mid $50s/t. An 18,000-ton load of sulphuric acid from Hamburg, Germany, to the U.S. Gulf paid low $30s/t. In effect, all are examples of highly competitive freight rates. It would appear that 5,000 tons of base oils were fixed into the U.S. Gulf from Cartagena, Spain.

The Europe-to-Far East market has tightened somewhat for July, with scheduled owners reporting their ships to be almost full. It does help that some are running much smaller vessels than normal, and one owner is even believed to be considering withdrawing its ship from the route this month and reletting what cargoes they have already fixed. There are plenty of potential carriers, but attempts to tempt them on berth with rates in the $60s/t for 5,000 tons have fallen on deaf ears so far. Usual levels would be in the mid $70s/t while these outsiders generally quote levels in the $80s/t. Some base oils were heard to have fixed to Singapore from the Mediterranean, but generally it has been quiet on base oils.

On routes to the India/Middle East Gulf region, there has been a lot of activity in the small chemicals parcels trade over the past week, with rates in the mid $70s/t done for cargoes of 5,000 – 6,000 tons. Base oils have also been quoted, along with some larger lots such as ethylene dichloride. However, the phosphoric acid situation has not been settled, which means that there is an awful lot of nice-quality stainless steel ships around at knock-down rates.


There has been a touch more business concluded in the Northeast Asia market, particularly with styrene, paraxylene, benzene and xylene, which has cause rates to spring back up slightly. Base oils are also being quoted more frequently within Asia. Some optimism is creeping in too because a number of plants that have been down for maintenance are coming back up, and these are expected to provide more employment for ships. It is not all a rosy picture though, and some routes such as intra-Southeast Asia are indeed still quite weak.

Various traders have been looking to move cargoes of benzene across the Pacific in the end of July and into August. Some have reportedly been covered in the $30s/t, but generally, owners are resisting and sticking to rates in the low $40s/t.

Things are fairly sedate to Europe. There is space available to scheduled ports, but outports still entail significant premiums. The usual base oils have been seen from Malacca, Malaysia, to Antwerp for August.

It has been extraordinarily quiet on the regional trades between the Middle East Gulf and India. Even clean petroleum is slow. A large lot of up to 17,000 tons of base oils is looking to move from the Red Sea to India and the Middle East Gulf and there is talk of 2,000 tons of base oils possibly to move to Karachi, Pakistan, or Chennai, India. New base oil fixtures from Iran have been muted.

Westbound remains quiet following the Eid festivities. A cargo consisting of 2,000 tons of ethyl acetate fixed from Mumbai, India, to Gebze, Turkey, at just $76/t – which is a substantial reduction on what would normally be paid.

Eastbound is just as quiet, though owners have balked at accepting the $20/t offered to them to take 10,000-ton parcels from the west coast of India to Southeast Asia, arguing that it would be less costly to simply ballast.

Adrian Brown is a senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London, can be reached at or +44 12 0750 7507. Information about SSY can be found at In the Houston office, Panos Giannoulis of SSY’s Chemical Tanker Department can be reached directly at or +1 (713) 652-270 and Jordi Maymi in Singapore can be reached at +65 6854 7127.

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