SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Nothing has changed fundamentally this week. Europe is still the slowest of all the major markets, whereas the markets in Asia and the United States are both slightly stronger.

U.S. Gulf

Demand has picked up the pace into Asia, and now space has become tight through the first half of November, even though several additional ships have been brought on berth. Freights have also started to rise. Methanol is moving in large amounts from the Caribbean and U.S. Gulf, with at least seven ships fixed. Ethanol is probably the next most numerous commodity, with three ships fixed to the Philippines, with further enquiries stretching out into December. Styrene is looking for space, with other grades such as phenol, acrylonitrile and ethylene dichloride producing enquiries. Rates are now more like mid $50s per metric ton for 5,000-ton parcels to Mainport Far East, and owners are seeking higher numbers for the second half of November.

On paper, there is quite a lot of prompt space out of the U.S. Gulf to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam this week, yet there are also a number of prompt requirements, such as glycol, cumene, phenol, cyclohexane and lysine. Styrene has also been seeking end of October space. 6,000 tons of base oils were quoted from the U.S. Gulf to northwestern Europe, in combination with some chemicals, but the requirement seems to be a contractual lifting that could end up going on contractual tonnage.

There has not been a great deal out of the ordinary along the Caribbean route this week. A number of cargoes still have to be covered, or else have to be slipped back into November. Base oils have rarely been mentioned. Caustic, methanol and aromatics have been a little more active, especially into Mexico, while 3,500 tons of ethanol was fixed from the U.S. Atlantic Coast to Jamaica in the mid $50s/t.

The route into the east coast of South America has faded, with fewer ethanol requirements noted. A tender to move 10,000 tons of paraxylene into Suape, Brazil, was awarded but it seems it has not yet been fixed. A small lot of base oils was pushed around from the U.S. Gulf to Brazil for November. 4,000 tons of urea ammonia nitrate from the U.S. Gulf to Chile was fixed with the rate said to be mid- to high- $60s/t, which is considered ultra-competitive by other owners.


It remains a slow period in the North Sea and Baltic, and some ships sat out the entire week without fixing a thing. Contractual demand certainly seems to be lacking, and even though some owners reported a slight increase in volumes towards the end of the month, other owners admitted that they had received lower-than usual volumes for this period. Rates have a distinctly competitive edge right now. Base oils have seen moderate demand, but a lot consists of routine business.

Even though demand is a little busier southbound, the amount of tonnage on berth is rather overwhelming, so cargoes continue to fix at competitive rates. There has been much talk about styrene into Turkey, but only a few cargoes actually appear to have fixed. For example, 3,000 tons of styrene was also quoted from Rotterdam to Berre, France. There has been some paraxylene and acrylonitrile quoted into the Mediterranean from the Baltic, and 6,000 tons of base oils were seen from the U.K. to Vado, Italy, after a lengthy break. Parcels of benzene, caustic, biodiesel and methyl tertiary butyl ether have been quoted in the Portugal-North Spain port, with a couple of biodiesel cargoes booked into Fos, France.

Aromatics have been more prolific along the northbound route over the past week, with benzene seen from Lavera, France, Skikda, Algeria, and Sarroch, Italy. A couple of pyrolysis gasoline cargoes were booked from Berre and Augusta, Sicily, while some toluene, pyrolysis gasoline and C10 was done from Priolo, Italy. Freight levels are roughly unchanged on most of these. Eventually, 8,000 tons of base oils were booked from Kavkaz, Russia, with some more base oils moving from Augusta, Italy, and Cartagena, Spain, to Continental Europe.

It is not particularly busy within the Mediterranean, but some charterers with prompt cargoes to be lifted from the West Mediterranean have commented that instead of ten offers per cargo they have been receiving just three to five offers. Base oils have seen some activity, with movements from the Black Sea, Greece, Italy (Livorno being back in action) and Spain.

A few more cargoes have been seen westbound, but there are so many ships around which are struggling to get out of Europe that rates remain competitive, though not as low as some of the wilder stories would have you believe. 7,000 tons of cumene from Amsterdam to the U.S. Gulf was worked in the high $20s/t, and not the $19-20/t that some suggest. About 5,000 tons to 6,000 tons of benzene from Rotterdam to Houston was quoted by traders who were bidding owners in the mid $20s/t, but the scheduled players were holding back from agreeing such numbers. It is conceivable that such a level might be agreed at the last minute at the point of sailing. A load of 25,000 tons of sulphuric acid from Hamburg, Germany, to Beaumont, Texas, was heard to have fixed in the mid $20s/t. 20,000 tons of MTBE was fixed from Rotterdam to Houston. A shipment of 5,000 tons of acetic acid was fixed from Saltend, U.K., to the U.S. Gulf, with further shipments likely following a plant problem in the U.S. Gulf. Paraxylene amounting to 6,000 tons was quoted from Rotterdam to Mexico, and a large biodiesel cargo was being worked from Hamburg to the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

More has been happening into Asia. Most requirements have been comprised of small parcels, such as 2-ethylhexanol, butanol and butanediol, but there have been some bigger lots of base oils fixed, including 13,500 tons from Italy to Singapore in the $53-$54/t region, and another 8,000 tons from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to Singapore and Ulsan, Korea. A couple more base oil shipments are being lined up for November, including one of 10,500 tons and another of up to 9,000 tons.

Base oils have also been moving to the Middle East Gulf and India, with 7,000 tons fixed from Kavkaz and another 4,000 tons heard going from the Baltic (via Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam). Demand overall has been stronger, and a lot of ships were fixed this week, including one with ethylene dichloride from Runcorn, U.K., to India. Several still need to fill up, therefore rates for smaller parcels can be pretty keen. Cargoes of octene, aniline, acrylonitrile, oxo-alcohols, hexane, pyrolysis gasoline, solvent naphtha and methanol have been seen.


The intra-Northeast Asia region is one of the hottest areas in Asia right now, with numerous cargoes quoted, causing vessel space to tighten further. Rates for 3,000-ton parcels from Ulsan to mid China are in the vicinity of mid $20s/t. Base oil enquiries are plentiful, whether intra-Far East, southbound or even back up out of Singapore or Thailand. Many requirements are hard to cover for the first half of November, and a few owners are able to say they have no space until December. There have been suggestions that palm oil demand to India and China could throttle back in November, which might cause more owners to look at chemicals and base oils again.

Space remains tight on the transpacific route. Spot benzene has been noted looking to go to the U.S. Gulf, and there are enquiries of paraxylene, acetone, linear alkyl benzene and acetic acid. A load of 7,000 tons of base oils was confirmed fixed from Daesan, South Korea, to Argentina, with levels around $120/t mentioned. High levels of demand are being noted to Europe too, which has enticed some additional ships on berth. Several base oil requirements have been noted from Korea and Malacca, Malaysia. Traders are also reported to be looking at caustic, cyclohexane, diethylene glycol and used cooking oil to Europe. A load of 8,000 tons of acetic acid was fixed from Nanjing, China to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam at $117/t, with suggestions the cargo may increase to 15,000 tons, possibly on the basis of Nanjing and Singapore loading.

There are a few more prompt positions available in the regional markets, but equally there are many prompt requirements, including aromatics from Sohar, Oman; Yanbu, and Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia; Mangalore, and Haldia, India; Skikda, Algeria; and Bandar Khomeini, Iran. There are also plenty of acids, caustic, clean petroleum, methanol, glycols, MTBE, linear alkyl benzene and acetates. Base oils have been noted from Al Ruwais, U.A.E., Karachi, Pakistan, and Iran. A great many Eastbound cargoes have been recorded this week, including cargoes of paraffins, paraxylene, methanol, MTBE, glycols and ethylene dichloride. Rates are largely stable as there are also a lot of ships that will be arriving in the area over the next three to four weeks. 15,000 tons of aromatics from the west coast of Italy to Southeast Asia and China achieved a level in the high $30s/t. Westbound is very active, and space is tight. Rates are pretty firm – 9,000 tons of benzene from Sohar, Oman, to Houston was reportedly fixed at $75/t, which is around $10/t higher than a month ago.

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.

Related Topics

Logistics & Distribution    Shipping