SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


December space is tight in Asian markets. There is finally more yearend activity in the Europe and the United States, but neither is wildly busy as in previous years.

U.S. Gulf

Charterers seem resigned to the fact that there is virtually no space left into Asia for December, and apart from a few who are trying very large cargoes of methanol, ethylene dichloride and ethanol, the majority of requirements have slipped back into January. There is a significant number of enquiries, but at this stage owners are not completely sure how much space they will have left once contractual commitments have been covered, so not much has been fixed yet for January. Rates have been gradually firming, but there is a feeling that owners will regret not having seized their chance to really boost levels because once January arrives, it will not be that long until the Chinese New Year, which will probably quieten things down on this route.

The firmer eastbound route out of the gulf, the one to Europe, has continued through this week since the majority of December ships are now covered. Seven thousand tons of vegetable oil from New Orleans to Huelva, Spain, for example, started off with charterers aiming to fix in the mid $40s per metric ton, but the cargo went on to fix in the mid $50s/t. Base oils have not been terribly evident on this route.

Base oil traffic to the Caribbean has been a little busier. There is a tender to deliver 5,000 tons of base oils into Cartagena, Colombia, in January, which has seen several traders look to supplies out of the U.S. Gulf. Observers spotted enquires for up to 2,200 tons base oils to ship from the U.S. Gulf to Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, and it emerged that charterers rate ideas for 3,400 tons of base oils from Houston to Veracruz, Mexico, were in the $30s/t.

A number of requirements from last week for receivers on the east coast of South America are still pending. In addition, there has been quite an amount of ethanol fixed, and there is now some paraxylene looking to ship into Suape, Brazil. A small lot of base oils was fixed from Houston to Santos, Brazil, at a level reported to be around $100/t. The same ship is taking an additional 3,500 tons base oils from Port Arthur, Texas, to Santos. A more recent enquiry has seen another 3,500 tons of base oils looking to ship from the U.S. Gulf to Brazil for end of December or early January.

Ethanol has been very much the main commodity on the route to India and the Middle East, with even January cargoes now being covered. Base oils are mentioned, and since there are some ships with available space, rates are believed to be unchanged from the levels that were discussed last week.


In the North and Baltic seas, a late flourish of prompt requirements saw the majority of ships get fixed up to the Christmas period, but owners have been hoping there would be one more week of fixing after the party season. In essence, this does seem to be occurring, although it will be a close thing if all the ships will be employed for the remainder of December. Base oils have been busy yet again, despite reports to the contrary, with several more cargoes booked out of the Baltic and several more scheduled up into that area from Continental Europe.

Cargo volumes seem to be holding on the routes into the Mediterranean, and rates are fairly standard. Discounts can still be secured if the cargo matches exactly the timing and the space available. Some 3,000-ton parcels from Rotterdam to Marmara, Turkey, have been workable in the low $40s/t on this basis, for example, instead of the usual high $40s/t or even low $50s/t. There is not much sign of trader interest in base oils, although the cargo of bright stock from Leixoes, Portugal, to Greece did end up getting fixed.

A slight increase in the amount of business quoted up to Continental Europe has allowed some rates to edge up slightly. Pyrolysis gasoline has been pretty active, with cargoes seen from the Black Sea, Turkey and Italy. A 15,000-ton parcel of aromatics from Priolo, Italy, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam yielded a rate of around $27/t, which is fairly firm for this route.

For traffic within the Mediterranean, biodiesel has come to the rescue of the owners this week, with a bunch of prompt requirements taking care of most of the prompt positions that have been noticeable over the past fortnight. Base oils also have seen several useful requirements, mainly into Turkey but also into Greece and Israel. Rates in the Mediterranean have not bottomed out nor shown any signs of firmness.

The westbound route across the Atlantic has been pretty busy with many charterers seeking December space. Five thousand tons of paraxylene from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast saw levels of around $40/t, while a similar volume from Rotterdam to Mexico saw around $60/t. An equal amount of chemicals from Portugal to Mexico fixed in the low $80s/t. Pyrolysis gasoline, paraxylene, benzene, MTBE, tertiary butyl alcohol, toluene, acetone, sulphuric acid and biodiesel have comprised the majority of enquiries this week. Very little December space remains, so rates are likely to remain firm a little longer.

The market from Europe into Asia has been very active, and with almost all the remaining December space having been taken, it has left room for several outsiders to go on berth. A cargo of 13,000 tons of benzene and phenol was booked at $77/t-$78/t. Another combination of 18,000 tons of benzene and phenol saw another vessel come on berth. A large slug of hydrocracker bottoms to Korea paid $116/t. Seven thousand tons of base oils from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Singapore and Ulsan, South Korea, are believed to have paid in the high $90s/t; 12,000 tons of base oils concluded from Kavkaz, Russia, to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore; 5,000 tons of styrene from Gonfreville, France, to China paid $95/t, and so on. These levels are all much higher than rates seen six to eight weeks ago. A lot will depend upon whether China continues to restock, which will be determined by the price of crude and feedstocks. There may be a short period in the new year when buying resumes, but many Chinese factories and offices will start winding down for the Chinese New Year on Jan. 28.

The market to India and the Middle East has again been busy, and yet more vessels have been sucked up into this trade, further depleting the stock of available ships within Europe. Rates have perhaps not changed, however, and there may be the opportunity to pick off those last tanks from some of the ships already on berth. A cargo with 3,000 tons of easy chemicals from the Black Sea to the west coast of India fetched $85/t, which is not as strong as could be expected.


The market has finally recognized that domestic Asia trade has been invigorated with lots of new business. This has left the market in Northeast Asia especially tight, and owners are looking for substantially higher levels. Five thousand ton cargoes from Korea to mid-China can easily command rates in the mid-$20s/t, compared to the low $20s/t of a few weeks back. Whether it continues into January is uncertain, however, with not so many cargoes yet pushed around for that timeframe. Base oils have been in high demand throughout, especially into China where customers have been restocking heavily. Northbound is pretty busy still from Southeast Asia, aided by a decent palm oil market that has drawn off a large number of ships. If any route can be described as quiet, it is perhaps the southbound leg from Korea and China.

There has not been any great change to any of the export routes out of Asia. Since benzene is unworkable on the eastbound transpacific leg, ships still have open space, and traders have been attempting to use that space for other products such as paraxylene, mixed xylenes, base oils, biodiesel and sulfuric acid. There are hardly any commodity chemicals looking to move to Europe either, but this is nothing new. Instead, there are a number of small parcels that can be rewarding for those owners who are able to call at the outports that many of these small parcels require.

The regional market to India and the Middle East is very strong these days, and charterers are paying a premium in order to secure December space. This has caused freights to jump by $2/t-$3/t. Base oils have been active, with movements reported out of the Red Sea, Al Ruwais, U.A.E. and Iran. Berth congestion is probably the main problem in the area, with many ships facing delays. This in turn brings a great deal of frustration, particularly from cargo receivers who often have little experience with logistics and expect ships to run as if on a railway timetable.

The eastbound market sees plenty of demand, both large and small for December and January, and rates continue to climb. Westbound, by contrast, is rather slow, and there is quite a bit of part-cargo space remaining for December. Moreover, with the next batch of importers due into the region in January, the prediction is that this route will continue to see competitive rates.

Adrian Brown is a senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London, can be reached atfix@ssychems.comor +44 12 0750 7507. Information about SSY can be found 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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