01 March 2013 03:39 [Source: ICIS news]
By Muhamad Fadhil
SINGAPORE (ICIS)--China’s northern ports of Dalian and Tianjin are currently congested, as heavy fog associated with the spring season intermittently disrupts port operations, shipping sources said on Friday.
Shipments into the region are being delayed, with freights likely to increase in the near term as bad weather conditions coincided with a return of demand amid tightness in vessel supply, they said.
The ports of Dalian in Liaoning province and of Tianjin had to close for a few hours during the week, but ports in Beijing were said to be unaffected by the fog, they said.
In Hebei province, operations at the Qinhuangdao port were halted on 27 February and resumed at 14:00 hours local time (06:00 GMT) on the following day, industry sources said.
“Vessels were just sitting for two or three days, so other ships cannot come in. So the ports had to close [temporarily] because of congestion,” according to a northeast Asian charterer, referring to the Tianjin and Dalian ports.
The fog that shrouded Tianjin port during the week seems heavier than in Dalian, according to port officials.
“It is causing further delays to ships supposed to move off this week and next week. New cargoes cannot move too, so more delays are expected,” the source said.
Vessel supply for chemical tankers in northeast Asia was tight before the Lunar New Year holiday in early February, as charterers rushed to secure fixtures before the week-long break. China was on holiday on 9-15 February.
After the holiday, overall shipping activity picked up significantly. Fixture space continued to be tight as demand for chemical cargoes in northeast Asia was stable-to-firm.
The bad weather is expected to exacerbate the tight post-Lunar New Year vessel supply situation, according to shipping sources, adding that few ships are available for loading in mid- or end-March.
“Vessels are missing their schedules. Little space [is] available in March,” according to a Singapore-based shipbroker.
“The tight vessel supply is expected to exert upward pressure on freight rates in the coming weeks, if the bad weather continues and vessel demand firms up further,” he added.
Freight rates from South Korea to Tianjin, Ningbo and Taiwan were heard mostly at $30/tonne or higher for 5,000-tonne vessels for the week ended 28 February, according to market sources.
Rates for ships from northeast Asia to southeast Asia were said to be $1-2/tonne higher because of limited vessel availability.
For the week ended 22 February, toluene cargoes from South Korea to Singapore were heard available at a minimum of $50/tonne (€38/tonne) for 1,000 or 2,000 tonne vessels.
“Yes, rates will be firming up because of the weather and supply situation. I am not sure for how long this will last,” said the shipbroker.
($1 = €0.76)
Additional reporting from Fanny Zhang and Dolly Wu
Read John Richardson and Malini Hariharan’s blog – Asian Chemical Connections
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