SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


It has been a very quiet week all over – trade in both Europe and Asia remains thin, and even the U.S. market looks subdued.

U.S. Gulf

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Trade not been very exciting into Asia and there has not been any base oils shipped for some time. A couple of cargoes of around 10,000-15,000 cubic meters of ethanol were booked from the U.S. Gulf to the Philippines and 5,000 tons of ethylbenzene was covered from Mississippi to the Far East.

Otherwise, there have been noises about styrene, and it is very likely that there will be some movement shortly. According to traders, ethylene dichloride demand now looks to have all been covered for August. It now seems to be a game of waiting for the trading arbitrage to return. Rates are drifting down as there is still quite some space available. Parcels of 5,000 tons from Houston to China are reputed to be valued in the mid $50s per metric ton, though in such a market even lower levels could be achievable.

Transatlantic demand, or more correctly, firm demand, has eased on the eastbound route with traders holding back on styrene. There has been talk of benzene being fixed, and if more were to go across it would only be because the European supply situation would have tightened further. So far, however, benzene is said to be balanced in Europe. A couple of cumene possibilities have been noted. Some phenol and tall oil has been mentioned and there is another potential methanol cargo within August. Up to 20,000 tons of sulphuric acid has been mooted from Canada to Morocco. Base oils in the amount of 8,000 tons were booked from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam for a rate said to be in the region of $50/t.

There has been minimal action in the Caribbean as well. There are several ships open in the area on a prompt basis that can take any size of cargo up to 10,000 tons. Rates are suggested to be weakening. Otherwise, bits of palm oil, sulphuric acid, ethanol, etc. have been discussed.

Ethanol has brightened up the southbound route to the east coast of South America, and there has been some methanol discussed, too. Base oil parcels into Brazil from last week have been covered.

There has been a substantial increase in the amount of ethanol quoted on the market towards India. It could be that an outsider is pushed on berth to deal with it since there is not that much space left on the scheduled vessels. A parcel of base oils from Lake Charles, Louisiana, has been bandied about, but nobody seems to give it much chance of succeeding.


In the Baltic and Black Sea regions, a few lucky owners have scheduled their ships into the end of August, but the majority complains that the market is very soft with minimal demand, and most ships will be open again within three to seven days time. On the base oil front, there have been a couple of spot fixtures from the Baltic, as well as a few intra-North Sea shipments. Rates have a soft tone, but have not collapsed.

The southbound route is lacking its usual sparkle. There have been some base oils talked from the Baltic into North Africa, and there was a more routine shipment of 7,000 tons of base oils into Italy, but otherwise it has been hard for owners to fill all the space. A bit of styrene, ethylene dichloride, alkylate, biodiesel, caustic and ethanol has also been noted.

The Mediterranean-to-Continental Europe route has been progressing steadily, without any great fanfare, but there has been a surprising variety of cargo fixed recently. Toluene, pyrolysis gasoline, paraxylene, methanol, biodiesel, wax, caustic and reformate have all been done. Freights are still pretty competitive though, with plenty of open space in the Mediterranean willing to go north.

The start of the holiday season in the Mediterranean has reduced the amount of new business from Spain, Italy and France. All the same, a certain amount of spot base oils activity can be discerned from Greece and Spain into Turkey, with another cargo scheduled to Haifa, Israel. Biodiesel has been fixing at a steady pace, and there has been some shipments of caustic, benzene, methanol, MTBE and sulphuric acid. Vegetable oil, however, is quieter from the Black Sea and will remain slow until the new harvest has been processed.

Several parcels of transatlantic-bound base oil have been noted from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf this week, although nothing so far seems to have come of the 7,000 tons of base oils from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Punta Cardon, Venezuela. Paraxylene, toluene, sulphuric acid, MTBE and urea ammonia nitrate is about the sum total of the remaining westbound business this week. Rates remain soft amid plenty of August space.

Scheduled space to the Far East is quite tight for August, which has prompted an owner to go on berth and scoop up some of the paraxylene and styrene that has been looking to move to Asia within August. Rates are suspected to be in the $60s/t for the 10,000-ton parcels. Base oils continue to be quoted, and there have been some possible glycerine, mixed xylenes and acrylonitrile enquiries too.

Base oils are fairly active to India and the Middle East Gulf, with 3,000 tons heard fixed from Livorno, Italy, to Mumbai, India, with further requirements quoted from northwestern Europe, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Several ships still have August space to fill, which should result in some pretty competitive offers.


Local holidays in Korea and Singapore have caused a slight reduction in new cargo business this week. Furthermore, the news is not really encouraging. Chinese consumers are still wary about building inventory levels because of fluctuating commodity prices, plus there will be some disruption caused by the G20 meeting. Fewer base oil enquiries have been noted this week within Asia. Rates are weak and there is a large number of ships still to be covered before the end of August.

This week saw a lot more interest in export benzene shipments to the U.S., including some prompt liftings. Space, however, is quite tight for prompt loading, with some owners even overbooked. So far, all the rates reported have been in the high $30s and low $40s/t for 6,000- to 9,000-ton quantities. The market into Europe is rather dull. Some small parcels of base oils have been quoted into northwestern Europe but there is ample space around and it should be fairly straightforward to cover everything.

There has been a marked improvement in the amount of cargo quoted on the eastbound route from India and the Middle East Gulf to Asia. However, the majority is for loading in September, which is of little use to the prompt ships that are idle in the Middle East Gulf/India region.

Regional demand is a little better and has helped disperse some of that prompt tonnage, with ships fixed for pyrolysis gasoline, molasses, MTBE, ethylene dichloride, styrene, paraxylene, clean petroleum and methanol. Base oils have also been noted from Al Ruwais, United Arab Emirates, into India and also several enquiries have been noted out of the Red Sea and Karachi, Pakistan.

Westbound is also slightly more active. A couple more large requirements of mixed chemicals have come onto the market, and there is interest in shipping caustic into the Mediterranean since it appears that the usual U.S. sources of caustic have less material to send to Europe. Methanol, vinyl acetate monomer, acrylates and linear alkyl benzene have also been encountered.

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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