Marine lubricant demand to hold steady over the next 5 years

Higher efficiencies, the scrapping of older ships, and global trade wars are some of the reasons why the global marine lubricant demand is expected to hold steady over the next five years.

According to forecasts from Kline, the consultancy specialist forecasts that the upturn in international trade and Group II base stocks will drive demand for marine lubricants, and offset the challenges of overcapacity in the global shipping industry.

In 2018, demand totaled an approximate 2.3 million tons, but this was a decline compared to the 2.5 million tons attained 9 years ago in 2010. This decline was mainly due to the practice of slow steaming (which reduces fuel consumption and consumes lower lubricants) and the replacement of older ships with a newer fleet that is more efficient and larger, according to Kline.

Last year, deep-sea shipping – which includes cargo ships, bulk carriers and other bigger ships – accounted for majority of the global marine lubricant demand. Ninety percent of the demand in the commercial shipping line were for marine engine oils such as cylinder oil, trunk piston oil and system oil. Otherwise, the remaining demand was for hydraulic fluids, gear oil, turbine oils and other lubricants used in ships.

According to Kline, system oils, trunk piston engine oils and most other marine lubricants are projected to grow by up to a 1% compound annual rate between now and 2023, while cylinder oil will drop by a 1% compound annual rate during the same period.

Unsurprisingly, Asia and Europe are the biggest users of marine lubricants, as demand continues to rise in these two regions. Most of the demand is concentrated in ports in Singapore, Hong Kong and Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp.

Things are picking up for the shipping industry however, and that spells good news for the global marine lubricant demand. There has been an 80% decline in the scrapping of ships, 20% rise in the Shanghai Containerized Freight trans-Pacific spot shipping rate, and new shipping alliances and acquisitions.

Additionally, the growing supply of Group II base stocks to balance out the reduced number of Group I base stocks means that more suppliers are producing trunk piston engine oils using Group II base stocks, which are better able to handle asphaltene levels.

Picking the right marine lubricant

Another demand driver for marine lubricants is the International Maritime Organization’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI). It mandates that ships built in 2025 must be 30 percent more efficient than ships built in 2014 to reduce emissions. Kline pointed out that many ships operating currently have been found exceeding the EEDI 2025 norms.

As more and more ships look to increase their efficiency, selecting the right marine lubricants would be a growing priority. Below are some tips to picking a marine lubricant based on its characteristics:

  • Alkalinity: When fuel burns, it tends to contain sulfuric acid, which can lead to acidic corrosion. Hence the alkalinity is critical in controlling this.
  • Resistance to oxidation: It is inevitable that the lubricating oil is exposed to oxygen in the air especially at high temperatures. As such, additives are added to control and cool the temperature, making the lubricant more resistant to oxidation.
  • Thermal conductivity: High heat levels can lead to the wearing out of the internal parts of the marine engine. The marine lubricant must be able to cool it down by having good thermal conductivity.
  • Detergency: An important property of lubricant oils for use in internal combustion engines is detergency, which involves the removal of soot and other deposits that may interfere with the engine’s operation.

What are your thoughts on the shipping industry, and what other areas does the marine lubricant industry need to consider? Share with us your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

  • Good news about the shipping industry. In addition to this growth better lubricants will be needed, mainly for engines, which will be the most demanded and which must be in good condition for navigation.