SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Europe had another busy week, causing freights to strengthen. Asia seems to be tight on space for the remainder of December, but the U.S. market remains flat and rather uninteresting.

U.S. Gulf

The Far East trade lane is the only one from the U.S. in which there is renewed activity. It is along the lines of previous weeks, with cargoes of methanol, ethylene dichloride, phenol, styrene, butanols and glycol being quoted. Rates are also fairly similar. A shortage of December space might define how much of this demand actually gets fixed.

Rates continue to slide on the eastbound service. From Geismar, Louisiana, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam, 5,000 tons of styrene was fixed at a rate of $42-43 per metric ton, and the same kind of money accounts for 8,000 tons of styrene from Mississippi to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. Cyclohexane in the amount of 5,000 tons was booked Port Arthur, Texas, to Antwerp, but there has not been a great deal else to Europe. On base oils, traders are deciding what to do with a large cargo that is available in December, and Nigeria has been mooted as a possible destination.

It may have been slightly busier this week, but with so many prompt ships around all seeking Caribbean cargoes any additional demand will be spread very thinly. The base oils business into Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, seems to be pending still, with traders looking from both Houston and Port Arthur. Parcels of acetic acid, hexane, caustic and urea ammonia nitrate have been seen this week.

Ethanol is still the main commodity moving into South America these days. A tender for paraxylene into Suape, Brazil, may have been awarded, but details have yet to emerge.

Base oils are pretty busy into India and the Middle East Gulf. Currently, 5,000 tons are loading for Mumbai, and a further shipment has been booked for later in December. There are also some suggestions that instead of Nigeria, one of the large December cargoes could head over to India and/or the Middle East Gulf. In addition, there are ethanol and ethylene dichloride possibilities.


The rapid up-tick in the amount of cargo needing to be lifted along the North Sea and Baltic route within December has continued, with most ships comfortably covered for another week. Many vessels, however, still have to cover the critical period between Christmas and New Year, but prospects are favorable. Base oils have been spot fixed from the Baltic on several occasions, with a couple of ships booked from Riga, Latvia, and another from Kaliningrad, Russia.

There has been quite a heavy volume of southbound business into the Mediterranean, with products such as styrene, paraxylene, ethanol, caustic, ethylene dichloride, biodiesel and the occasional base oil shipment. Most cargoes have been fixed fairly quickly. There is quite a lot of open tonnage, and owners prefer to have full ships than to haggle over the rate and potentially lose the cargo.

As with the southbound route, some owners along the northbound route are anxious about ensuring their vessels are covered for the holiday season, and have been booking cargoes at pretty competitive levels. The 5,000 tons of aromatics from Priolo, Italy, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam mentioned last week did indeed fix cleanly at 195,000, and a further 5,000 tons of aromatics from the French Mediterranean to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam concluded at just $150,000. Base oils in the amount of 2,000 tons from Livorno, Italy, to La Rochelle, France, seemingly fixed at just 110,000, but charterers were not always successful in pressurising rates – 7,000 tons of aromatics from Priolo, Italy to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam went for close to 300,000, for example.

Trade in the inter-Mediterranean route has picked up over the past week, substantially reducing the number of prompt candidates that have cluttered up the Mediterranean over the past month. Rates remain very competitive though. Biodiesel has been behind a lot of the movement in the West Mediterranean, while vegetable oils have been active out of the Black Sea. Base oil activity has been reasonable, with shipments fixed from most of the main base oil ports, and with more pending for later in December.

It has been busier on the westbound trade lane, and, thanks to a general tightening of space out of Europe through heightened employment opportunities, there have been fewer potential candidates willing to look at transatlantic work. From Rotterdam to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, 10,000 tons of paraxylene was fixed at $30/t, which is a significant jump from the previous shipment. Products such as toluene and mixed xylenes have also been noted, as well as acetone and acetic acid. There have not been any base oils this week.

Cargo demand has grown even more this week, which has allowed at least one outsider to offer a December position. Ships that are already on berth are noted to be filling out on parcels of chemicals. Rates are nudging back upwards, but only gently so far. Base oil activity has been restricted to a cargo from Antwerp to Singapore and Ulsan, South Korea.

Quite a few base oil possibilities have been quoted this week, both to India and the Middle East Gulf. In addition, there are a number of chemicals parcels, phosphoric acid and vegetable oil. Moreover, scheduled space is scarce, with the exception of a couple of Mediterranean carriers.


There has been a resurgence in demand in most Asian coastal markets this week. A lot of aromatics have been quoted from Korea to China. The prompt requirements are probably because ships are being delayed through bad weather, but there have been a number of quotations for late December and into January. Of considerable interest are the cargoes quoted southbound, such a mixed xylenes and paraxylene, which are rarely seen. The usual caustic shipments from China to Southeast Asia are now said to be paying high $20s/t, compared to usual low- to mid $20s/t, and these cargoes are the lowest-paying on this route. Northbound sees a number of base oil enquiries, some of which can be hard to cover due to berth restrictions. Three thousand tons of base oils from Cilacap, Indonesia, to Nantong, China, are understood to have paid in the $90s/t.

Benzene has reappeared on the transpacific export market, and space looks to be tight going into the year-end. Owners are bullish on rates, and believe that levels should be in the $60s/t, even for sizeable cargoes, arguing that they achieve this level for 6,000-ton parcels and that there should be no discount for bigger volumes. Some paraxylene and mixed xylenes is also mentioned, and there has even been talk of toluene. Seven thousand tons of base oils Singapore to Houston allegedly achieved low $90s/t. Freight levels are mostly strong into Europe too. From Taizhou, China, to Rotterdam 1,000 tons chemicals went in the $150s/t, while 17,000 tons of biodiesel from China to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam achieved $87/t. Equally, 4,000 tons of biodiesel from south China to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam fixed at just $78/t. A couple of producers have sent base oil cargoes to Europe from Southeast Asia.

It has been another busy week in the regional markets along the India and the Middle East Gulf route, with demand for tonnage outstripping supply. Many requirements seem to be on hold as charterers are determined to avoid paying higher levels, but owners are still able to fill their ships. Base oils have been busy again, with three to four cargoes moving to India from Iran and Abu Dhabi. Eastbound is fairly active, but there are still a few ships that can offer December space. Westbound is active and space remains scarce. Methanol, caustic, linear alkyl benzene, styrene, glycols, benzene, ethanol, vinyl acetate monomer, acetates and cyclohexane are just some of the enquiries noted to Europe.

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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