SSY Base Oil Shipping Report


Europe endured a week that was even thinner than the previous one. Asia managed to stay fairly buoyant, while the Americas saw reasonable demand but a surfeit of ships.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Once again, contractual business provides the mainstay of business for owners out of the U.S. Gulf. Asian demand has been fairly impressive, especially from China with traders targeting cargoes of styrene, acrylonitrile and benzene/toluene/xylene.

There are limited amounts of November space available among the carriers scheduled to go out East, but freight rates remain static. With 10,000 ton cargoes of chemicals from U.S. Gulf to scheduled, principal ports in China paying no more than $55 per ton, there is no great incentive for the ships that have found their way into the U.S. Gulf to wish to take some of the spot business.

Instead, we see these ships prepared to go on berth into the Caribbean or into South America should they find a larger cargo. In turn, this keeps the pressure on rates in those areas. Rates for smaller parcels, such as 3,000 tons of base oils from the U.S. Gulf to east coast Mexico are unaffected since those types of cargoes have little appeal, and we would expect the level to still be in the mid $20s/t.

Transatlantic eastbound has gone very quiet all of a sudden, leaving a couple of ships hoping for completion cargoes. If nothing materializes soon, then expect rates to come off the mid $40s/t for 5,000 tons of base oils from Houston to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to perhaps $40/t.

There is no end in sight for the misery of ships stuck in Europe. Clean petroleum tankers may earn some relief as it seems there are more cargoes being imported into the United Kingdom prior to a possible increase in fuel duty, but rates have not reacted. All other coastal markets within Europe are under immense pressure, and just when you think freights have reached rock bottom you find at least one ship owner who is prepared to capitulate and go even lower.

The Mediterranean is especially difficult for owners, and we see ships waiting for days on end without finding anything. Transatlantic westbound is poor with hardly any interest in shipping typical cargoes such as octane boosters for gasoline, or aromatics.

We have seen 8,000 tons of chemicals from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to the U.S. Atlantic coast fetch just over mid $20s/t, which is about the lowest level we have seen for such a cargo over the past couple of years.

Europe to Asia is not much better. Rates are sliding, but not as fast. For example, 5,000 tons of cargo from Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam to China was going for just over $80/t a couple of weeks ago, and is now notionally mid $70s/t, although low $70s/t may be achievable on a vessel with part-cargo space.

Numbers into India and Middle East Gulf are weak as well, in spite of a price settlement between Mediterranean phosphoric acid producers and Indian buyers that will see some 100,000 tons of acid hit the market in November.

Trade across northeast Asia has been reasonable again with China picking up all sorts of cargoes. Export trades have been satisfactory too, with the majority of vessels filling back to Europe or the United States.

Good demand from the palm oil sector has helped too, and volumes into India and China are decent. Rates have not really altered though, and we still believe that 5,000 tons of base oils from South Korea to Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam would find space in the mid $60s/t. India and the Middle East Gulf is busier, but with so many ships ending up in this region, it is always possible to find a candidate to load base oils from Iran to India, or Mediterranean or Asia.

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 fix@ssychems.comor +1 203-961-1566.

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