SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


It has been a slightly slower week in Europe, Asia and the United States, but this may be due to tight tonnage availability on some routes as well as judicial logistical planning that has obviated the need for last minute re-supply.

U.S. Gulf

Cargo volumes remain strong into Asia. Traders are still seeking December space, which is not really feasible unless additional ships go on berth. Should that occur, those owners will be looking for a freight that will be higher than the standard high $60s low $70s per metric ton level that currently prevails for 5,000-ton cargoes. Traders are mainly looking at styrene, phenol, methanol and ethanol, but there have also been enquiries for ethylene dichloride, paraffins and paraxylene.

An increase in demand has halted the slide in freight rates, and indeed, the last couple of styrene fixtures to northwestern Europe demonstrate that rates have nudged back up slightly. Space has tightened for the month-end. Cargoes of cyclohexane, phenol, acrylonitrile, vinyl acetate monomer, lysine, caustic, styrene, cumene and biodiesel have been noted.

It has been a quieter week along the route into the Caribbean, and there are a number of prompt ships that are still looking for cargoes. Equally, some of the cargoes that have been quoted, such as the acetic acid and hexane into Mexico, are not ideal for these ships, therefore the cargoes remain uncovered. The base oil tender into Rio Haina, Dominican Republic, still appears to be outstanding, and 1,600 tons of banana spray oil is being quoted into Ecuador for January shipment.

It is perhaps of little surprise to report that ethanol is the number one item being sent southbound to the east coast of South America, with several ships already fixed for December. A couple more ships are slated to load in January, and there are some fairly decent volumes still outstanding for January.

One of the base oil cargoes for the end of December was fixed to India, with levels variously reported to be either mid $70s/t or even high $70s/t, which is quite a high level for 8,000 tons. Several other large base oil requirements have been seen, including one cargo of 15,000 tons, comprised of seven grades.


The rapidity with which ships have been fixed along the North Sea and Baltic route has fallen off to some extent this week. All the same, with the amount of new business that is quoted daily, it does look as though most vessels will end up being covered through the entire holiday period. A few more base oil cargoes have been booked to load out of the Baltic still within December.

A tightening in the number of open positions southbound has occurred this week, allowing owners to be a little more selective, rather than offering on every single available cargo, as was happening until recently. There have been a number of orders requiring December shipment too, and it is expected that most vessels will avoid having idle time. A routine shipment of base oils was noted to Italy, but otherwise demand consists mainly of chemicals and biodiesel.

Northbound trade has been steady this week. Pyrolysis gasoline has been active from France, Italy, the Black Sea and Croatia, while regular biodiesel shipments have been noted primarily from the West Mediterranean, although 5,000 tons was booked from Varna, Bulgaria, to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam for a level said to be $300,000. A few base oil enquiries have been noted from Livorno, Italy, and Augusta, Sicily.

Business along the inter-Mediterranean route was slower this week, and several ships have come very close to being without employment. Base oils, however, have been respectably busy. Quite a lot of base oil has been moving into Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Greece.

Transatlantic trade flattened over the course of the week, with fewer new requirements noted. Several cargoes, however, have been taking a while to cover, such as 10,000 tons of biodiesel from Hamburg to the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and 18,200 tons of urea ammonia nitrate from Heroya, Norway, to the U.S. Atlantic Coast and the U.S. Gulf, but there are vessels in position and these cargoes should soon go.

Bits and pieces of space into the Far East remain available among the assortment of ships already scheduled to go out, which in some ways suits quite nicely the assortment of small chemicals parcels that have been quoted. It was a little surprising to see the 6,000 tons of base oils from Antwerp to Singapore and Ulsan, South Korea, find space in the low $70s/t, but this appears to be a standard rate for this particular cargo. There is another 10,000 tons of base oils to move from Fawley, United Kingdom, and Augusta to Singapore, and it will be interesting to compare the levels. Four thousand tons of base oils were also noted from the West Mediterranean. Some of the small chemicals parcels have been fetching high levels – 2,000 tons from Rotterdam to Ulsan, for instance, was quoted at $120/t, while another 2,500 tons of solvents to 4 ports in Asia cost over $200/t.

Some of the base oil requirements in this direction have been booked, with some larger shipments from the Mediterranean and some smaller volumes from Continental Europe. One ship ended up taking the phosphoric acid cargo to India, while several more took vegetable oil, including one lot of 6,000 tons that fixed from the Black Sea to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at $53/t.


The bad weather has certainly been a factor with regards ship availability along the domestic route, with vessels stuck in Northeast Asia and unable to get back into Southeast Asia, creating more of a shortage than perhaps the amount of market enquiry would justify. That said, demand for space is still strong within Northeast Asia and owners are happy to exploit this situation. Rates have therefore increased further. During the summer months, 3,000 tons of benzene from Onsan, South Korea, to mid-China was fixed for around $18-19/t. That same voyage is currently paying high $20s/t. Base oils have only been moderately busy, probably because supplies are tight.

There is a fair bit of chit-chat about benzene to move from Asia to the U.S. in January, but a major obstacle is the lack of firm space on berth. Owners, however, are reluctant to put ships on berth unless the cargoes are firm. In addition, traders mention possibilities of paraxylene, mixed xylenes and even toluene on the transpacific route. Base oils have also been discussed, but are not thought to have firmed up. The market to Europe seems pretty balanced between supply and demand for vessels. Base oils continue to be aired, both for producers and traders, as do biodiesel, cyclohexane and cumene. Rates are stable.

It is more apt to describe the regional markets as steady, rather than busy. There are a lot of requirements along the India and Middle East Gulf route that did not manage to get fixed, as there is not a great deal of open space, and some of these will probably reappear in January. Eastbound space is very tight, even for loading well into January, and rates look rather firm. Fifteen-thousand tons of paraxylene were fixed from Al Jubail, Saudi Arabia, to Karachi, Pakistan, and Haldia, India at $48/t, which is some $12/t above usual levels. Westbound continues to see some activity, although perhaps not as many requirements as previously. Space is still tight though.

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