SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Greater activity in Europe indicates crude oil price hikes had some impact there, while in Asia, regional vessel space for December is becoming quite tight and the transpacific run from the U.S. is the main route buzzing in that market.

U.S. Gulf

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Further fixing has been reported on the route to Asia. It is estimated there is between 15,000 and 20,000 metric tons of remaining space for December loading. However, there is outstanding cargo enquiries for around 50,000-60,000 tons. It is highly likely that many of these requirements will drift into January. Rates are firmer, and the upwards progression is ably demonstrated when looking at what happened to three cargoes of paraxylene to Korea or China. Taking the rates for China, the first cargo, loading in the first half of December, paid in the low $50s per metric ton. The second, loading in the second half of December, paid $60/t, while the third, loading in the first half of January, went in the low $60s/t. In addition, there are enquiries for ethylene dichloride, styrene, cumene, glycols, butanol, phenol, ethanol and acrylonitrile.

Eastbound transatlantic demand has been a little more alluring. Traders have been checking rates on base oils out of Paulsboro, U.S., to Continental Europe, and there is also an interesting enquiry for 5,000 tons of base oils from the U.S. Gulf to Tunisia. Other business includes cyclohexane, glycols, tall oil, technical corn oil (for biodiesel production), caustic, urea ammonia nitrate and vegetable oil. Rates are unchanged for now.

Caustic seems to have dominated routes to the Caribbean, with numerous enquiries noted – including cargoes to Mexico, Rio Haina port in the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Canada and Santo Tomas, Guatemala. Apart from the existing requirement into Cartagena, no further base oils have been seen so far.

If caustic sets the tone in the Caribbean this week, then Brazil dances to the beat of ethanol. There have been a number of ethanol cargoes mentioned, even up to 40,000 tons. In the base oil trade, 3,500 tons of base oils were heard to have fixed from the U.S. Gulf to Santos, Brazil.

Traders continue to look at base oils along the route to India and the Middle East Gulf for December and January. As with last week, though, volumes and timings continue to fluctuate. It seems there could be interest to send the Paulsboro volume down to Nigeria instead of to the United Arab Emirates or India.


It has been a better week for the owners who inhabit the North Sea and Baltic markets. Almost all the idle ships managed to find work, with many more ships booked up into the middle of the month. Some owners are only showing space for the end of December, although they are in the minority. Moreover, whilst there is still some biodiesel and ethanol traffic, it has been eclipsed this week by demand to move aromatics, which suggests that rising feedstock costs following the OPEC deal may have sparked some buying interest. Base oils have enjoyed another busy week, with a sizeable amount of material coming down form the Baltic, as well as some intra-North Sea shuffles.

On the face of it, the southbound route looks pretty much unchanged in terms of rates and demand. However, there do seem to be fewer prompt candidates around, so whether that will impact rates going forward is hard to say. So far, the routine shipments seen have all been at rates similar to what was last done. Traders have been looking at shipping bright stock into Greece.

Northbound routes out of the Mediterranean are not that exciting. Some pyrolysis gasoline has been noted, and there is a urea ammonia nitrate tender from Egypt which could see material move to the United Kingdom, but not much base oils activity is happening in this direction.

As the week progressed, the large number of prompt vessels open within the Mediterranean was whittled down to about 6-10 ships, but there is not really any great push by charterers yet to cover their December deliveries, and so any stability is still rather fragile. Biodiesel is still the main provider of spot market cargoes, enhanced by the new supplies coming out of the Black Sea, the rates for which are $170,000-$175,000 to southern Spain for 5,000-ton parcels. Base oils have been noted from Cartagena, Spain; Leixoes, Portugual; Augusta, Sicily; and Aghio, Greece; but Livorno, Italy, still has minimal stocks after restarting from turnaround. Base oils in the amount of 6,000 tons were fixed to Gebze, Turkey, from both Cartagena and, rather unusually, from Barcelona at $29/t. Black Sea base oils are fairly quiet too.

There has been quite a decent showing of cargoes on the westbound transatlantic run, including benzene, pyrolysis gasoline, mixed xylenes, toluene, paraxylene, acetone, urea ammonia nitrate, sulphuric acid and MTBE, There has also been talk of methanol moving, but details are hazy. Due to tight styrene supplies in the U.S. Gulf, traders have been looking to send styrene to both Mexico and Brazil from Europe. Rates are looking steady right now.

Trade has expanded rapidly on the Europe-to-Far East route, and almost all the December ships are full, barring some occasional space. Rates are moving towards $80/t or more for 5,000-ton parcels from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to Korea. A haul of 2,000 tons of base oils from Hamburg, Germany, to China paid $128/t, for instance. Plenty of styrene has been noted, but more recently, benzene has been appearing as Asian benzene prices have increased dramatically. Cumene, phenol, acetone, paraxylene, orthoxylene and glycol ethers are among some of the other grades noted.

For a while it looked as though demand to India and the Middle East Gulf would not keep pace with the amount of ships that owners were committing to this route, but a push by charterers to ship products such as benzene into the Middle East Gulf, and base oils, aromatics, solvents and acrylonitrile into India appears to have filled most of the scheduled carriers.


It has been pretty busy again on the regional Asian routes. Chinese buyers are keen to ensure deliveries are in place through the next month in order to arrive before the start of the Chinese New Year at the end of January. There has been further impetus provided by reports of low stock levels in China, as well as a feedstocks push caused by the higher price of crude oil. Base oils have been very busy, with material quoted into China and Southeast Asia. It is said that rates are stable, but if a prompt vessel is needed then rates are likely to be somewhat higher. Northbound can be firm too – 3,000 tons of chemicals from Thailand to mid China saw levels around $37/t, for example.

Since benzene will be much more costly in Asia, it will no longer ship on the transpacific east route. The occasional cumene, biodiesel or palm oil cargo may mitigate the situation slightly, but essentially there will be open space to the U.S. Gulf in December and rates are likely to drop into the mid- to high $30s/t for cargoes of 10,000 tons. The situation to Europe is not quite the same. Larger lots will always attract competitive levels – 9,000 tons of base oils from Malacca, Malaysia, to Antwerp went for a rate in the low $50s/t, for example, but smaller parcels become harder to fix in the same way. Small parcels to the Mediterranean and Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam are paying rates of $125/t-$180/t just because there is hardly any competition among owners.

It remains pretty lively within the India and Middle East Gulf regional market, with a steady crossflow of cargoes between India and the Middle East Gulf. Iranian sellers are more active and their demand is beginning to make itself felt. Base oils continue to move into India from Iran, but more so via ports in the United Arab Emirates. Eastbound had another busy week, with stronger rates reported. Levels for 5,000-ton parcels from the Middle East Gulf to mainport China are in the low $50s/t. There have been attempts to ship base oils from Al Ruwais, U.A.E., to Nantong, China, as well as rubber process oils to China from the Emirates.

Westbound started off quietly but more material emerged as the week progressed. Rates are still soft, however. Cyclohexane in the amount of 3,000 tons from the west coast of India to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam fetched low $70s/t, as a guide.

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

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