SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Cargoes continue to flow into Asia from the United States and Europe, and the transatlantic routes remain buoyant, but elsewhere it has been a steady if uninspiring week. In Asia, the list of open ships grows longer and longer, and we see freights from this region continuing to soften.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Freights have increased on nearly all the key trade lanes out of the Gulf due to a jump in demand for vessel space. In spite of the slowdown in biodiesel business, which has not yet fully disappeared, eastbound transatlantic has benefitted from a frenzy of styrene enquiries. Typical freights for 5,000 ton lots are in the mid to high $40s/t, which represents an increase of a couple of dollars. Similar kinds of increases have been recorded on routes into the Caribbean and down to South America.

Cargoes from the U.S. Gulf to the Far East, however, have seen some of the biggest increases, with 5,000 t cargoes now costing in the high $50s/t for benzene/toluene/xylene-type commodities, with more complicated cargoes paying in the $60s and $70s/t. Base oils seem to fall into the latter category.

The most active deep-sea route from Europe has still got to be the one to Asia-Pacific. Some of the more exotic types of cargo, such as methanol and MTBE may have faltered, but there remain good opportunities to ship ethylene dichloride, acrylonitrile, benzene, phenol, acetone, butanols and of course base oils.

Securing space on scheduled carriers in March is tricky, but there are still plenty of smaller vessels open in Europe. With current freight rates for 5,000 t lots from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to scheduled principal ports in the Far East paying just below $80/t, and bunker fuels holding at around $235/t for 380 cSt FOB Rotterdam, owners with smaller ships may just take the plunge, particularly if they can boost the freights by calling at unscheduled ports.

Phosphoric acid looks to have replaced pyrolysis gasoline as the main commodity shipping from the Mediterranean to India and is the reason why so little stainless space remains on this route. Transatlantic space is quite tight until late in March. Enquiries include reformate, caustic, benzene, toluene/xylene mix, TBA and UAN. Rates would appear to be stable however. Elsewhere, space can be readily found for intra-European shipments.

Deep-sea chemical exports from Asia are not so plentiful, and space exists both to Europe and the United States. Moreover, the number of ships fixing into the region will probably produce further downwards pressure on freights.

We assess freights for 5,000 t “easy” chemicals from Korea to Rotterdam as being in the mid $80s/t, and to the U.S. Gulf as being in the low $70s/t. Interestingly, inter-Asian business is active for March, with many small parcels seen, but many of the bigger ships open in the region would not be able to parcel up satisfactorily, which is why the rates will probably remain competitive.
The Middle East Gulf and India are other regions suffering from an influx of tonnage. There are cargoes needing to be shipped, but most are for the end of March or April, whereas many of the ships are open in prompt positions.
Small 2,000 t parcels from the Middle East Gulf to the Mediterranean continue to secure levels of $110 to 115/t, whereas 5,000 t lots can bring those numbers down into the $60s and $70s/t, depending upon the nature of the cargo and the ports involved.

Adrian Brown is senior market analyst for chemicals and base oils with SSY Shipbrokers, London. Information about SSY can be found at Adrian Brown, in the U.K., can be reached directly at or by phone at +44 1207-507507. In the U.S., SSYs Steve Rosenthal can be reached at or +1 203-961-1566.

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