SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


The U.S. is still remarkably active and freights are firm. Both Europe and Asia have some quiet sectors, but there are also routes where more activity has been recorded.

U.S. Gulf

July space into the Far East is almost entirely covered, with the main exceptions being one or two ships that have slipped back on dates and have, therefore, been cancelled on a couple of items. August is already fairly tight at this stage, as contractual nominations have been strong. Spot demand includes more paraxylene, ethylene dichloride, phenol, acrylonitrile, styrene, methanol and ethylbenzene. Owners have at last woken up to the fact that they can ask for higher levels, and typical levels for 5,000-ton parcels from Houston to China are edging closer to the $60 per metric ton mark.

A few traders had been discussing possible styrene shipments to Europe, but the last bit of July space was fixed away with technical corn oil and ethanol. It remains to be seen how much material drops into August, or whether charterers will put their requirements on hold. Cumene remains a possibility. Sulphuric acid in the amount of 19,000 tons was quoted from Canada to Morocco, and 9,000 tons of vinyl acetate monomer from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam was allegedly booked in the mid $40s/t. Several small lots of cyclohexane have been circulated from the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp, Belgium, and there is still an assortment of palm oils and urea ammonia nitrate to be fixed.

It may not appear to be particularly busy into the Caribbean, and there are some coated ships around, but the rate reported for 5,000 tons of base oils from Houston to Cartagena, Colombia, is fairly strong at $57/t-$58/t, especially since the previous shipment went for about the same level at half the size. Some of the glycols and palm oil requirements from last week remain unfixed as well.

The week has been a mirror copy of the previous week along the route into the east coast of South America. Ethanol is in the driving seat, with several cargoes fixed and several new enquiries circulated. The ethylene dichloride tender into Maceio, Brazil, is officially out. There is another tender for 15,000 tons of methanol to be delivered into Argentina by mid-August. The paraxylene tender to Suape, Brazil, was awarded to a major producer who is using in-house tonnage to ship it. Roughly 8,000/10,000 tons of palm oil was quoted from the Caribbean to Fortaleza, Brazil. Acetone remains of interest, in case there is any spare product in the U.S. Gulf.

There is around 4,000 tons of prompt space to India, after which space looks to be pretty tight among the scheduled carriers for August. A couple of ethanol requirements have popped up, seeking space for 10,000- to 30,000-ton lots. It may be possible that an outsider goes on berth with a smaller volume, which might then leave some completion space to be filled.


It has been a busy period again for small ships along the North Sea and Baltic route. There are not many prompt coasters around, and this week also saw a slight improvement in the market for intermediate sizes of clean petroleum tankers. Base oils have not been that busy out of the Baltic, but there have been several interesting movements along the North Sea coast, including some transhipments of what appears to be U.S. material, as well as a rare shipment from Le Havre, France, into Immingham, United Kingdom.

Overall, there has been a reasonable amount of business quoted into the Mediterranean. However, there has also been quite a lot of open tonnage in northwestern Europe that has been interested in heading back into the Mediterranean, which has resulted in rates remaining supressed.

Good levels of demand have resulted in quite a lot of vessels being fixed up to Continental Europe, though rates are all over the place. Pyrolysis gasoline in the amount of 6,000 tons from Kulevi, Georgia, to Antwerp paid $48/t, and 6,500 tons of glycerine from two ports in Spain to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam achieved mid- to high $30s/t.

Base oils in the amount of 6,000 tons from Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam achieved just under $200,000, and 5,000 tons of base oils from Cartagena to La Rochelle, France, reportedly paid 22/t. Pyrolysis gasoline in the amount of 5,000 tons from Porto Marghera, Italy, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam went at close to 50/t.

There has been a slight build-up of prompt tonnage in the West Mediterranean, which some owners attribute to fewer biodiesel requirements. Again, rates for these are all over the place. Biodiesel in the amount of 6,000 tons from Sete to Fos, France, is claimed to have paid $85,000, while 5,000 tons of biodiesel from Barcelona to Tarragona, Spain, paid under 60,000 (U.S. $69,930). Base oils have been pretty active, with cargoes fixed into Israel, Turkey, Egypt and Morocco.

Demand has picked up slightly on the westbound route, and rates have moved up. Cargoes of pyrolysis gasoline have been more in evidence, with at least one cargo of 5,000-6,000 tons fixed from Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Houston at close to $30/t. Paraxylene in the amount of 5,000 tons from Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast also achieved close to $30/t, while 10,000 tons of paraxylene was worked from Rotterdam to Mexico at $34/t. Further shipments of pyrolysis gasoline, paraxylene, mixed xylenes and caustic have been attempted. Sulphuric acid in the amount of 10,000 tons from Hamburg, Germany, to Savannah, U.S., is claimed to have got $29/t. Several parcels of base oil have been quoted, including 4,000 tons from Riga, Latvia, and another 4,000 tons from St. Petersburg, Russia.

Once again, there has been little to report on the market into Asia. Space is scarce among the scheduled ships, and there is not enough cargo to warrant an outsider coming on berth and facing the risk of not finding enough completion cargo.

Things are still pretty subdued into India and the Middle East, and there are a lot of surplus ships open in Europe that would like to get away. A potential concern is that the vegetable oil campaign from the Black Sea is beginning to wind down, and the new crop will not be processed until later in the third quarter. A fresh enquiry for 5,000 tons of benzene, toulene, and xylene from Leixoes, Portugal, to India or Pakistan could signify that buyers in that area are once again interested in European material.


There have been a few more bright spots this week. In the intra-Far East market, not so much prompt space remains. Southbound space has tightened a little too, after last weeks surge in demand. There are still some requirements from that period that remain unfixed.

Northbound is busier in August, but that does leave a number of prompt ships open and looking rather precarious as to whether they will fill or not. The intra-Southeast Asia routes show no signs of slowing down for a summer break either, with contractual demand reported to be strong and a little more spot activity to round it off. Base oils are not particularly lively in the domestic Asia market.

Base oils continue to appear for export, however, with requirements noted to both the U.S. and Europe. There is some benzene interest for August on the transpacific route, most of which remains off-market. It is quieter in terms of new business to Europe, but that may be a function of the lack of space. A couple of big ships have gone on berth to Europe for August, and some of the latent demand may be tempted to back out again. Palm oil demand remains strong into India, and prompt space can command serious premiums. Even rates on palm oil to Europe and the U.S. are up a little.

It has been another week of improved activity within the Middle East Gulf to India region. Locally, there has been some base oil, reformate, sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, canola, caustic, paraxylene, ethylene dichloride, benzene, pyrolysis gasoline and clean petroleum. Iranian demand has also expanded in all directions. Traders have been looking at moving base oils from the Red Sea into the Mediterranean.

Adrian Brown is a senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London, can be reached or +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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