SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


A few faint signs in the shipping market indicate that summer is finally coming to an end, but therell need to be several weeks of sustained demand before theres a major impact on tonnage availability.

U.S. Gulf

The Far East destination may be one of the routes that is possibly at a turning point. September space is limited to a handful of ships, each with small amounts of space and owners that are unwilling to reduce rates further. A stand is being made, with ideas for 5,000-ton cargoes higher than the current low $40s per metric ton and certainly much more than charterers ideas in the high $30s/t. There are requirements for styrene, glycol and phenol for September that probably surpass the amount of open space, but it is a question as to how many of them are firm. Ethylene dichloride is also looming, as is ethanol. Owners are perhaps beginning to realize that there is a good chance that Asia will need restocking in the fourth quarter, especially if this year mimics the November-through-April surge seen last year. Base oils are all pretty quiet to Asia, though.

There has not been a great deal of spot fixing on the transatlantic eastbound run, but nor has there been hordes of ships all vying for cargo. Scheduled owners seem to be content that contractual volumes are providing satisfactory results. Rates are stable. A 6,000-ton cargo of base oils has been quoted from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

Demand for southbound shipments seems to be fairly strong for September. There are all kinds of enquiries into Latin America and the Caribbean, including mineral spirits, MTBE, caustic, styrene, methanol and propanol. Vegetable oils have been a bit busier, too. Base oils had a strong showing, with 4,600 tons fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Cartagena in the high $50s/t, and a further shipment of 2,250 tons covered from the U.S. Gulf to Cartagena in the mid $60s/t. Some small parcels of base oils continue to be quoted into Rio Haina, Dominican Republic.

It has been a quieter week in the direction of South America. Traders continue to check freight levels for 10,000- to 20,000-cubic meter lots of ethanol into North Brazil. Caustic, however, has literally dried up, with product shortages blamed for the withdrawal of the caustic tender into Munguba, Brazil. Acetone has also become scarce in the U.S. Gulf and traders are now looking to send European acetone to Brazil instead. Base oils in the amount of 5,700 tons were fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Brazil, allegedly in the low $50s/t. Other small parcels of base oils have been noted, including one requirement for 800 tons from the U.S. Gulf.

No major changes for trade into the India and Middle East Gulf region have been noted this week. A ship is known to have picked up 4,000 tons of base oils headed for the west coast of India, and there is mention of phenol, acrylonitrile, and ethanol moving too.


North Sea and Baltic activity has been somewhat slight, given that the holiday season is drawing to a close and most people are back at work. Contractual demand is just about adequate, but spot volumes have been lower than normal. Base oils are still one of the more active products, and gasoline-blending components have also reportedly received a boost in demand that has triggered higher prices.

Competition for southbound cargoes into the Mediterranean has been fierce, and rates have been soft as a result. The requirement to ship 4,500 tons of base oils from Rotterdam or Fawley, United Kingdom, for Alexandria, Egypt, seemingly paid just $197,000.

Owners seem to have had less of a battle fixing cargoes northbound. Aromatics have been the products seeing the most demand. There was still benzene from Skikda, Algeria; pyrolysis gasoline fixed from Kulevi, Georgia, and Lavera, France; toluene went from Priolo, Italy; and 5,000 tons of benzene from Sarroch, Italy, was heard to have been fixed. A further 5,000 tons of benzene from Aliaga, Turkey, to Gonfreville, France, is also reckoned to have been booked, and 7,000 tons of base oils were covered from Augusta, Sicily, to Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Inter-Mediterranean demand has been very patchy. Vegetable oil demand has tailed off, and the small clean petroleum tanker market is being attacked by larger handy-size tankers. Some spot base oils activity has been detected into Israel, Morocco and Turkey, but with lengthy religious holidays taking place all this week in North Africa and Turkey, the week is bound to be slow.

Transatlantic demand continues to grow on the westbound route. This week, there have been several benzene requirements and a cargo of toluene was booked to Houston. Paraxylene in the amount of 5,000 tons from Rotterdam to Charleston, South Carolina, paid $30/t – an increase over the previous $27/t that was done. Both mixed xylenes and pyrolysis gasoline/heart-cut benzene have been booked. Heart-cut benzene cargo of 8,000 to 10,000 tons from Fawley to Houston was heard to have been worked at $33/t. Renewable diesel in the amount of 15,000 tons fixed from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

Urea ammonia nitrate in the amount of 10,000 tons was fixed from Sluiskil, the Netherlands, to Valleyfield, Canada, and a further 13,000 tons went from Heroya, Norway, to the United States. Additional cargoes have been quoted from Sluiskil and from Sillamae, Estonia.

Acetone, cumene and sulphuric acid have also been seen. A wax haul of 4,000 tons fixed from Fawley to the U.S. Gulf. More biodiesel has been seen for the end of the month as well and even methanol is being studied. Base oils, however, have been missing.

The market into Asia is not really gaining traction, even if there are a few more possible cargoes quoted. Styrene, mixed xylenes, butanol, 2-ethylhexanol, nonene and acrylonitrile have all been discussed, but there are still a couple of vessels with September space, and finding firm business seems to be difficult. Rates are still around the $70/t mark for 5,000-ton parcels from Rotterdam to Mainport Far East. Apart from the 3,500-ton rubber process oil cargo that was fixed from Hamburg, base oils have disappeared completely.

Business into the India and Middle East Gulf region has been rather flat this week. Some of the requirements from last week have yet to fix. Charterers are looking for levels in the $70s/t while owners want $80s/t. Base oil requirements are still bandied about, but as most are small, they need to latch on to ships that are already scheduled.


The Northeast Asia market is indeed looking tighter on vessel space. As expected, there has been a surge in demand following the conclusion of the G20 Summit in China, while at the same time there has been a succession of typhoons hitting the region. Base oils have not really been terribly exciting, however. A couple of routes, such as southbound and intra-Southeast Asia, have been rather slow and tonnage has built up around these areas. Rates are mostly unchanged within Asia.

Several benzene cargoes for export have been booked on the transpacific route for the second half of September, with numbers still in the high $30s and low $40s/t. There are now discussions to move benzene in October. An enquiry to ship 10,000 tons of methanol from Nantong, China, to the U.S. Gulf is an interesting development. The market into Europe is comprised mainly of small parcels which still pay in the $120s/t and $130s/t. Palm oil volumes – and rates – are up slightly.

Extensive religious holidays in the India and Middle East Gulf region have caused all markets to sag. Berth congestion will undoubtedly build during this period as ports run at a slower speed. In India, some ports are already reporting delays of up to four days, while in Karachi it can be between seven and 10 days.

Eastbound saw some base oils pushed from Ruwais, United Arab Emirates, and the Red Sea towards Asia. Otherwise, traders are looking at paraxylene from Mangalore, India, and Yanbu, with routine cargoes of orthoxylene and MTBE from India, as well as some spot benzene requirements from Cochin Port in India.

A number of Iranian cargoes have been circulated into Asia. Mono ethylene glycol in the amount of 5,000 tons was quoted from Shuaiba, Kuwait, to the Far East, and there are cargoes of ethylene dichloride, methanol, styrene, acetic anhydride, acetone and linear alkyl benzene from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia.

Westbound demand has been muted. A cargo of base oils was booked from Ruwais to Havre, France, and there have been some requirements for paraxylene, benzene and methanol, but plenty of open space can be found.

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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