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Marichem: carrying chemicals

This year's Marichem conference focused on the role of the Port of Rotterdam in the chemical logistics chain, the needs of charterers and those of chemical tanker operators

Last year, the Port of Rotterdam's total throughput of liquid bulk cargo was 151 million tonnes (mt), and of the 'ARA' ports (Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam), it is the leader in throughput of oil products. The Port hosts a number of tank storage, rail handling and refinery facilities, making it an ideal port of call for carriers of crude oil, chemicals and petroleum products. Rotterdam was therefore an appropriate choice of location for the 14th annual Marichem conference, held during the first week of September.

Shell Chemical expands Businesses in the West have been forecasting the 'opening up' of China for years now. A potential market of 1 billion people and the nascent technology industry growing up alongside the already substantial industrial manufacturing base in the country have proven to be strong lures for Western businesses looking for a share of what they believe will be a lucrative market. Producers of chemicals are no different. According to Roger Barth, global marine coordinator of Shell Chemical, the major is currently working on "the largest Chinese-foreign joint venture so far", worth $4 billion in the southern China, in Nanhai. "Nanhai is a world-scale plant on a greenfield site in Daya Bay, Guandong," said Barth. "At the centre will be an 800,000-ton per year ethylene cracker, with room for future expansion. The joint venture will build, own and operate the petrochemical complex and market the products, primarily into the domestic market." Shell forecasts that by 2004, China's petrochemical demand will rise by more than 60 per cent and that by almost 100 per cent by 2006. "In anyone's language, that's a phenomenal growth curve," said Barth. Growth is also expected in the Middle East. Shell estimates that 25 per cent of global ethylene growth over the next 10 years will derive from the Middle Eastern region. When oil prices are high, Barth pointed out, the region is competitive; when they are low - below $15 per barrel - Middle Eastern producers lose their competitive advantage. Barth emphasised the importance for global players to have a presence in the region, both in order to maintain a global portfolio and also to capitalise on the flexibility of feedstock in the face of changes in the price of oil. Growth in both areas of the world - China and the Middle East - will inevitably have an impact on trade flows and provide future opportunities for chemical tanker owners and operators.

Ship vetting…again Shipowners complain incessantly about the burden of commercial vetting inspections, and much attention has been paid to the Chemical Distribution Institute's (CDI) and Oil Companies' International Marine Forum's (OCIMF) vetting schemes for chemical tankers and oil tankers, respectively. In recent months, several announcements have been made about the progress the two industry bodies are making towards a harmonised inspection regime for cross-trading tankers. The initiative includes the holding of common seminars for vetting inspectors, the harmonisation of the Vessel Particulars Questionnaires and the updating of both bodies' software in order to make the transferral of information between their databases possible. At the Marichem conference, however, Martin Whittle, director of CDI, raised the question of whether commercial vetting inspections are really as much of a headache

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