SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


European coastal markets have seen a marginal improvement in demand, while the U.S. has been quieter as both sides take stock of open positions and potential demand for September. Asia remains slow.

U.S. Gulf

With almost all of the space to the Far East remaining in August having been covered, the market has sat back to see what space will be left for spot requirements in September, once contract nominations have been taken care of. Owners will welcome the breathing space because August was almost too frantic, with rates tumbling every week. Charterers will be keen to keep the momentum going, but it is still a little early to predict the outcome.

The eastbound transatlantic route is also in a period of consolidation. There is a number of cargo requirements still to be covered from previous weeks, such as tall oil, fish oil, palm oil, molasses, urea ammonia nitrate, cumene, vinyl acetate monomer, butanols and acrylonitrile. Traders are said to be looking at shipping 10,000 tons of base oils to Lagos, Nigeria, from Paulsboro, New Jersey, U.S.

It has been quite a busy week overall in the U.S. Gulf-to-Caribbean market. Several base oil requirements continue to circulate, and caustic has been prominent too, with at least 4 or 5 cargoes needing to be shipped.

Space on scheduled carriers to the east coast of South America has tightened a touch for the first half of September, with some cargoes likely to drop back into the second half of September. Ethanol has been the main commodity again, but there have also been enquiries to move acetone, caustic, methanol and base oils. In common with all the routes out of the U.S., rates this week are unchanged.

A couple of very large ethanol cargoes reportedly may have been booked to India and the Middle East Gulf over the past week. A cargo of base oils into India is also reckoned to have been covered.


The last few days of August saw a barrage of cargo enquiries hit the North Sea and Baltic Sea, many of which required August loading. Grades continue to follow the theme of gasoline-blending, with some decent cargoes of ethanol and biodiesel seen. Rates have been generally unchanged, but it did have the effect of removing much of the prompt space. Base oils continue to move down from the Baltic, and there have been both spot and system requirements for base oil along the North Sea.

There have been fewer prompt ships around for cargoes to go southbound into the Mediterranean, but those that have been available have been very hungry for business and some seriously competitive freight levels have been seen. However, where there has been no flexibility on dates, charterers have been finding that owners are imposing higher freight ideas, which in some cases have been almost double that of the levels fixed for prompt cargoes.

It has been a week where the amount of space looking to go back north out of the Mediterranean has been well matched by the number of available cargoes. Spot base oil requirements have been noted from the Black Sea up to Continental Europe.

There has been rather more in terms of prompt open space in the West Mediterranean this week, and the rates on certain bits of regular business have certainly gone down by around 1 per metric ton. However, owners point out that there are still a number of prompt cargoes to be covered, including base oils as well as caustic, biodiesel, MTBE, benzene and methanol, which they believe will help balance the situation.

Transatlantic rates have crumbled even further this week as owners fight off serious competition from other owners to snatch the more attractive cargoes first. Numbers on some 10,000-ton cargoes from Rotterdam, Amsterdam to Houston were barely in the low $20s/t this week, and 9,000 tons of biodiesel from Hamburg, Germany, to the U.S. Atlantic Coast was heard to have gone in the high $20s/t. However, the range of products that is seeking space has widened and now includes base oil, sulphuric acid, calcium nitrate, biodiesel, pyrolysis gasoline, benzene, toluene, paraxylene, MTBE and acetone.

In terms of traffic from Europe to the Far East, it has not been a particularly busy week. Traders have been working a 10,000-ton cargo of aromatics from Rotterdam to Asia, and 8,000 tons of aromatics from Skikda, Algeria, to China were heard to have fixed in the high $80s- to low $90s/t. A cargo of rubber process oils has been quoted from Hamburg, but otherwise, base oils have been lackluster this week.

Traders are again looking at shipping small parcels of aromatics and solvents, with the occasional cargo of acrylonitrile, hexane and base oil to India and the Middle East Gulf. Generally, though, it is fairly quiet.


There has been a bit of short-term tightness in the intra-Northeast Asia market, as charterers try to schedule shipments into mid China in an effort to beat the closure deadline before the G20 Summit.

This comes on top of a number of prompt requirements for toluene, benzene, paraxylene and base oils. Cargo volumes on both Intra-Southeast Asia and southbound routes remain insignificant, whereas northbound volumes are fairly positive, with 10,000-ton slugs of benzene/toluene/xylene moving from Singapore; Map Ta Phut, Thailand; and Kerteh, Malaysia.

Further shipments of orthoxylene, mixed aromatics, pyrolysis gasoline, monoethylene glycol, paraffins, acrylates and toluene have been noted, along with some base oils traffic. Rates are pretty much unchanged, with 10,000 tons of benzene/toluene/xylene going from Singapore to mid China paying $22/t.

September space has tightened on the transpacific export route, but nevertheless, rates remain weak. Benzene has been moving steadily to the U.S., and there is talk that 10,000 to 15,000 tons of mixed xylenes are being worked from Korea to the U.S. Gulf. There has not been a great deal done to Europe, although some small parcels of base oil remain unfixed into Turkey. Palm oil rates have risen slightly into India, but larger quantities to Europe and the U.S. continue to produce very competitive numbers.

There has not been much to cheer about on regional markets in India and the Middle East Gulf. Base oils still see some activity out of the Red Sea and the Middle East Gulf, and 3,000 tons of base oils were booked from Karachi, Pakistan. Eastbound activity levels notched up slightly, although rates remain depressed. Westbound business has been rather sparse again.

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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