SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Business is still brisk on certain routes out of the U.S. Gulf. European and Asian markets are similar to each other in some ways as neither are busy, yet nor have they come to a complete standstill.

U.S. Gulf

July has been a very active month along the Far East route. It is estimated that at least 25,000 tons to 30,000 tons of styrene and 10,000 to 15,000 tons of ethyl benzene was fixed to Asia this week, with further enquiries noted. There appears to have been at least 50,000 tons of paraxylene fixed so far, with further enquiries pending. The main issue is vessel space, which is looking extremely tight. Charterers have been rather surprised, but grateful that owners have not raised their freight ideas this month. Most of the fixtures achieved have been in the $50 to $54 per metric ton range for 5,000-ton parcels to the mainport in the Far East, and only a little higher to China. Additional requirements include cargoes of ethylene dichloride, glycols, phenol and ethanol.

Healthy demand has been reported on the eastbound route to Europe. Styrene has been quoted frequently, but in practice not much has been done. Cumene in the amount of 8,000 tons from Pasadena, U.S., to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam was heard to have gone in the high $50s/t, while the next requirement of 3,000 tons to 5,000 tons is already in the market. Ethanol in the amount of 7,000 cubic meters was booked from Texas City, and 5,000 tons to 9,000 tons of vinyl acetate monomer is looking for space from Houston, U.S. to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Other grades, such as glycols, urea ammonia nitrate, tallow, palm oil, phenol, cyclohexanone and metaxylene, are also clamouring for July space.

The Caribbean route is possibly the slowest of all U.S. routes right now, and owners are having difficulties filling their prompt ships. There have been enquiries, but the issue seems to be that most are not firm, such as the various caustic enquiries into Colombia and Puerto Moin, Costa Rica, or the 3,000 tons from the Middle East Gulf into Altamira, Mexico. The cargoes are off the beaten track owners are not wanting to send ships.

The volume of demand into the east coast of South America is fairly consistent and rates generally stable. There have been enquiries of caustic, ethanol, base oils, paraxylene, urea ammonia nitrate and ethylene dichloride from the U.S. Gulf. Acetone had been attempted too, but the cargo was withdrawn due to a shortage of available material in the U.S. Gulf.

There is a small amount of prompt space left on into India and the Middle East Gulf. As long as the cargo is not too fancy or sophisticated, there is a good chance that some competitive figures could be achieved. Levels in the mid to high $60s/t could be achievable for 1,500 ton- to 2,000-ton parcels to Mumbai, India, for example.


Owners of ships smaller than 10,000 DWT are experiencing a very different summer market than owners with larger vessels along the North Sea and Baltic route. Though it is not easy, most small ships have forwards employment, and, in some cases, entire fleets are booked ahead by two weeks. This is not the case for larger vessels, many of which are open within a few days time. Rates are not great, no matter the size of ship, but the smaller ships seem to be weathering the storm better. Base oils have not been as busy out of the Baltic as in previous weeks, but there have been some spot fixing of base oils in the region.

Rates have generally kept within the same parameters as in previous weeks going southbound. There have been some notable exceptions, however. Aromatics in the amount of 6,000 tons from Rotterdam, Netherlands to South Turkey reportedly achieved low $30s/t, although it is said that the performing vessel wanted the cargo for repositioning purposes. By comparison, 9,000 tons of chemicals fixed in the low $30s/t from Rotterdam to the West Mediterranean.

Business is rather buoyant northbound for mid-July, when things would normally be expected to be quietening down. Pyrolysis gasoline in the amount of 6,000 tons from Venice, Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam has been struggling to find a suitable carrier. Another 6,000 tons of pyrolysis gasoline from Priolo, Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam reputedly paid between 45 and 50/t. Toluene in the amount of 4,500 tons from Priolo Gargallo, Sicily to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam came in around 50/t. Quite a few other cargoes of aromatics were booked, along with cargoes of ethanol, alkylate and caustic. The 2,000 tons parcel of base oils from Greece to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam was covered as well.

In a similar vein to last week, the amount of prompt tonnage is not substantial along the inter-Mediterranean route, yet there are enough ships that will be open within the next 7 to 10 days that owners are concentrating less on the freight levels and more on ensuring that the ship is covered. One reason seems to be that the amount of biodiesel being moved within the West Mediterranean is slightly less, and, while there may have been a rise in the other grades to be shipped, such as caustic, aromatics, acids and clean petroleum, it has not been compensated entirely. Base oils have actually been fairly active in the circumstances, with several movements into North Africa and several more into Turkey and Greece from the Black Sea.

There is not a lot being fixed on the westbound route. The amount of enquiry is a little more than in recent weeks, but, for one reason or another, the cargoes have failed to develop or have been sold locally within Europe. Pyrolysis gasoline was such an example, as was orthoxylene. Base oils were circulated to the U.S. Gulf at one point, but the cargo is now being targeted to South America instead. Several further cargoes of paraxylene have been quoted across to Mexico, and several small parcels of acetic anhydride, acetone and methyl tertiarybutyl ether have been noted.

There are no changes to report on the market into Asia. The lack of larger cargoes means that the scheduled carriers have little to fear by way of competition from outsiders. Base oils in the amount of 9,000 tons and chemicals from two ports in the United Kingdom-Continent range to Singapore and Korea ended up at a rate just over $100/t for example. Additionally, 15,000 tons of base oils were fixed from Kavkaz, Russia to Greece, Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates and Singapore at the usual levels.

The route into India and the Middle East Gulf favours either scheduled carriers or smaller vessels that can squeeze into the outports. Irregular tonnage is having a much tougher time getting out of Europe, and, in some cases, ships have embarked on long ballast legs from northwestern Europe all the way down into the Black Sea in order to find some cargo. Phosphoric acid has been another alternative, but rates have sunk even lower, with the latest 19,000 tons cargo from Tunisia to Sikka, India being fixed at just $33/t.


There has been a little more business conducted throughout Asia over the past week. It has allowed more owners to clear out their July positions and they now report having only August space. There is quite a bit of open space remaining for July, however. In the intra-Far East trade, there has been the usual mix of grades, such as benzene, solvent naphtha C9, mixed aromatics, paraxylene, alpha-olefins, methyl tertiarybutyl ether and toluene. Base oils should start to reappear once the big Korean units restart after turnarounds. Southbound has been fractionally busier, thanks to some movements of motor gasoline, light cycle oil and mixed aromatics. 4,000 tons base oils are said to have fixed from Onsan, Korea to Singapore in the high $30s/t. Owners on the northbound service were able to chew their way through quite a lot of material that had been quoted the week before, but now the number of new requirements has diminished, which might make it trickier to fill the last bits of July space.

There has not been much benzene reportedly fixed on the transpacific route this week, but it is noticeable that the ships that had been promoted as being on berth have gradually disappeared from sight, suggesting off-market cargoes. The market to Europe remains active. What is immediately obvious is the huge range in rates that owners quote. In some cases, owners are happy to accept levels in the mid $60s/t for 5,000-ton parcels from China to Rotterdam. Other owners, however, evaluate the same cargoes to be in the $80s/t and $90s/t range, and, somehow, both sets of figures are achieved. Many of the smaller parcels pay even higher numbers. It is not impossible to see 1,500 tons fixed one day at $130/t, and the next day a similar parcel goes for $180/t. Base oil activity seems to have slowed for the time being. Palmoil rates to India have soared for July, loading as space has become extremely tight. Palm oil in the amount of 24,000 tons from Tarahan, Indonesia to the west coast of India collected $31/t, compared to rates in the very low $20s/t earlier this month, and this fixture was far from unique, with other similar deals struck.

There has been a slight improvement in cargo volumes in the regional market. Some is undoubtedly a direct result of ships running late, but some is also attributable to an increase in the amount of small clean petroleum requirements in the area. Eastbound seems a bit busier too, with one owner fixing three ship totalling 48,000 tons of cargo within a single day, and all for July loading. Aromatics from India, Middle East Gulf and Red Sea are noteworthy, along with the amount of Iranian demand in the market. Westbound routes are thin, however, and there has not been a great deal of activity this week.

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) 652-2700 and Jordi Maymi in Singapore can be reached at +65 6854-7127.

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