Piracy on the high seas is a growing problem for chemicals shipping.
Check out this particularly informative article.
September 2007 Archives
Piracy on the high seas is a growing problem for chemicals shipping.
Every year for the past six years, I say I've had enough of organising this annual conference . I don't want any more of the rollercoaster of elation and disappointment when speakers express interest but months later change their minds, when they realise that writing a conference paper actually takes time and they've left it too late.
This last week of September has been a spectacularly good week on the conference. We signed up three great speakers for the coming conference - one who can give the inside story on Central European developments; another who can give a really hot keynote speech on the global picture; and another one who has the whole overview of what's going on in Russia. Even a major trader is interested to speak too. What a relief when it's only seven weeks to the big day.
Not so lucky on our sponsor though. We've been very lucky with sponsors in the past. We were in Cologne in 2005 and had local giant BayerMaterialScience to sponsor us. Then last year we were in Amsterdam and had Lyondell as speaker and sponsor. They were both great events, but Antwerp has failed to attract the obvious big local candidates. Never mind - the delegates keep on coming back. About half the delegates have already signed up again for this year, cleverly helping themselves to the early bird discount, and this is before we even announce our headline acts. Once word gets around about our speakers, those tickets will be selling out fast.
We've got some very snazzy brochures to hand out in the ICIS suite at EPCA this weekend and (John and Paul pay attention here) this will be my last last conference, so make the most of it.
Four of us from ICIS travelling to EPCA Berlin were in a head-on car crash on Saturday afternoon, but we walked away with only minor injuries. Nick, Ed, Dan and Barbara were in an airport taxi, a Mercedes estate car, which smashed head first at speed into an oncoming Skoda saloon car on the Kurfurstenstrasse, only minutes away from our conference hotel.
The four of us - three from the London editorial team, together with our European sales manager - watched as police and firefighters examined the wreckage of the cars and then towed them out of the way of the traffic.
Nick in the front seat was saved by the airbag.
"It's lucky that we all had our seat belts on," said Dan, as we counted our cuts and bruises, standing in the rain on the traffic island in the middle of firefighters, police and onlookers.
Photos from Dan's phone.
Can you top this EPCA "Journey from Hell" story? Contribute your own "A Funny thing happened to me on the way to the conference" tale (below).
That's all for today folks. Coming soon:
“I get no kicks from champagne” – The parties of EPCA: who said what, what they wore (photo special with guest commentary from Hairdressers’ Journal), the year’s winners and losers.
Sports and chemicals – Are Darts the new Golf ?
Petrochemicals and the visual arts – Who’s collecting what; Famous paintings within 10 km of chemical plants.
Chemical-fuelled music – Which chemical players are moonlighting in the music industry; Celebs at industry events; Corporate entertaining at music events. And a special feature on Lionel Ritchie and Rod Stewart at the K Fair.
Talking about kids – Does prowess at pony-riding trump a Lamborghini?
Chemicals II: The Next Generation – Whose kids are going into Business with Dad? Six case histories (with video footage).
Watch this space!
What will be the new gadgets at EPCA? Is the Blackberry old hat? Who will be the first of the chemicals crowd to sport the new iPhone?
And, the question on everyone’s lips, what will be this year’s giveaway in the ICIS suite? If you’ve already collected the ICIS-logoed silver mouse, the pens, the furry toys and the umbrella, make sure you are first in line for the 2007 issue.
Meanwhile, when you are tired of last year’s gadget, check out the Will it Blend website, which will show you how to liquidise the gadgets you hate.
It looks like this is a film for us: "A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash."http://www.oilcrashmovie.com/film.html It’s opening in the UK in November. Has anyone seen it yet?
Thanks to www.oilcrashmovie.com for photo of "Depleted Azeri Oilfield."
Worried about what to pack for EPCA next weekend? Worry no longer – the ICIS fashion editor brings you this season’s “must haves” for the conference circuit. What’s hot and what’s not.
Expect to see a strong showing from the male handbag, a perpetual favourite amongst the Belgian, French and German contingents. Favoured colours will range from oxblood to the darkest chocolate, and always bulging.
Competing strongly with the handbag amongst the younger delegates will be the “manbag”, worn on a jaunty diagonal across the chest, or over the shoulder for this year’s more geeky look.
And at the cutting edge of fashion, expect to see a new entry from the "murse" (man+purse).
Hugo Boss suits will put in a strong appearance on everyone from north of the Alps.
ICIS men will be featuring Ralph Lauren shirts in pink or white, as purchased from the factory outlet store outside San Antonio.
Expect to see a fabulous array of chinos in larger sizes and checked shirts on anyone who has crossed the Atlantic for the conference.
Hair will be worn short, receding or bald – NEVER in a pony-tail.
Moustaches are IN in a big way, which will favour the Central European and South American contingents.
Ties will be orange, because “Orange is the new Red,” but methanol traders and Italian consultants are allowed bowties.
And shoes will be tight and painful after three days on your feet.
Send your chemical fashion problems or share your tips below…
Wedding bells were ringing in Houston on Saturday, as our senior editor Heather celebrated her marriage in front of an audience including many of her ICIS friends.
Her wedding website tells the story of how she met her husband-to-be when she went to interview him for an article.
Reading that put me in mind of the other ICIS Houston weddings we remember. There was Dena, our US polymers editor, who married a shipbroker she had met in the course of her work.
And then there was Marybeth, my counterpart in the Houston office a few years ago, who was swept off her feet with bouquets of roses to the office, and married her long-haired blonde US aromatics trader. They are all living Happily Ever After.
Houston is a chemicals town so it’s not entirely unexpected when chemical romance blossoms amongst the downtown glass canyons. But what about those other more isolated chemical hearts yearning in their labs and offices?
My fellow ICIS-blogger Simon Robinson of “The Big Biofuels Blog” has announced his plans to set up an ICIS match-making website.
“After the success of ICIS jobs, why not ICIS Lonely Hearts,” he said last week to a gathering of rapt journalists.
“Think of all those scientists stumbling around labs looking for love. If you look at some of the chemistry blogs, they’re all about why are there no women in labs,” he added.
I do some of my best thinking in the car. Not on the slow early morning drive through the suburbs of south-west London to the ICIS offices, but on long distance journeys like the one we did this weekend, taking our son to start his university in life in Exeter, a cathedral city about three hours’ drive west of London.
As we drove through autumn woods of green and gold, past harvested fields of bleached stubble and bales of hay, my thoughts turned to my fellow blogger Simon Robinson’s “Big Biofuels Blog” and how so many English people claim to detest the new landscape of bright yellow fields of oilseed rape, only one of which was still in bloom on our journey.
Earlier this year the fields were full of poppies because of the increasing popularity of organic farming, and it was a startling sight to see the fields of Salisbury Plain stretching red to the horizon.
Even the routes to chemical plants and chemical events can have their scenic qualities.
Top 3 Chemical Drives
• 1 The drive from Houston to San Antonio for NPRA through Texas Bluebonnets and stopping for beef jerky and a spot of outlet shopping, with 50s rock and roll on the radio.
Thanks to http://austin.about.com/ for the photo.
• 2 The drive from Frankfurt airport to Ludwigshafen in a chauffered Mercedes at 200 kph on the autobahn past fields of asparagus and hilled vineyards.
Thanks to World News Network for the photo.
• 3 Down Interstate 195 from New York City to the DuPont sites of Wilmington, Delaware through rolling wooded countryside and escaping the big city (donated by Simon Robinson)
View Larger Map
With special mention to the little train from Zurich down Lake Zurich in deep snow to Chemische Werke Dr Kolb AG at Hedingen.
Nominate your Top Chemical Drives here (NO flights, but train rides will be considered on merit. Extra points will be awarded for African or Asian drives.) Can the sheep grazing on the northern hills overlooking Wilton compete with the bougainvillea drives of the Mediterranean?
This was my favourite news story last week. A disgruntled journalist put Belgium up for sale on eBay.
I’ve just finished a great book, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” by Paul Torday. What’s the relevance to the chemical industry. Nothing much really, only it has
• Middle East interest
• The unbridgeable gulf between techie experts and inept management
• Corporate and political scheming
Other good books I’ve read recently with flimsy chemical connections:
• “Two Caravans” by Marina Lewycka (it’s got Central Europe, agriculture, passing references to ammonia)
• “Aberystwyth Mon Amour” by Malcolm Pryce (Wales, vice, Patagonia, guano).
Suggestions please for other great chemical novels…
We had visitors in the ICIS office a few days ago from a big new pan-European multi-product privately owned petrochemical company. We drank coffee together and talked about the structure of their company versus the structure of ours. It was a friendly and constructive meeting in the spirit of Glasnost, but I’m not going to mention their company name here, because there is still a culture of fear amongst some major chemical companies about being named in print, no matter how harmless the context.
At ICIS we respect all information given to us in confidence, but when news is already out in the public domain, then that will be reported with as much detail as can be confirmed.
There are, in fact, very few companies which are forbidden to confirm news reports, at least through their press offices.
When it comes to plant shutdowns, news generally comes out through the plant’s customers, or co-producers, and most producers are prepared to give their version of events to ensure that they are correctly reported, along with the right company name, location and capacity.
Is naming companies in production news a good thing? Post a comment here.
You only have to look around an EPCA conference session or an EPL dinner to see that it’s a male-dominated industry but for all the years I’ve been going to these events, there have always been plenty of women around.
At the last EPL (European Petrochemical Luncheon) in Bratislava, Slovakia, there were 24 women out of a total of 110 (22%) attending the meeting.
And I see from the delegate list on the EPCA (European Petrochemical Association) website that for the coming conference in Berlin (29 September – 1 October), there are already more than 1,700 delegates, of which a quick scan shows me there are around 200 (12%) women.
Even the “Who’s Moving Where” pages of our ICB (ICIS Chemical Business) magazine usually has at least one tasteful photo of a woman petchem executive.
And you can’t help but notice that women are particularly well-represented in the distribution sector. Why should that be? At the annual Floggers lunch of the CBA (Chemical Business Association) in London in May, you will see hundreds of women. They are buyers at chemical consumer companies, sales managers at producers, and they are in operations and logistics.
And do they stick together? Well, I was once invited along to a meeting of WISTA (Women's International Shipping and Trading Association). It sounded like a good idea, and I went along with my friend Stella, a shipbroker. It wasn't my thing at all. The all-female cocktail party of shippers and lawyers was a big yawn. I lasted about an hour.
Women graduates in the big petchem industry corporations start out quite well-represented but it is clear that they drop out in their late 30s and 40s when they go back to work after starting a family and find that the hassle just isn’t worth it.
I didn’t want to get back to full-time work till my children were seven and at school and I was offered a good enough job to make it worthwhile.
We see women product managers going off on maternity leave all the time, but few of them come back to their same jobs in the front line of buying, selling and reporting chemicals. There are some notable exceptions – Jennifer and Daphne at Shell, Gillian at Sabic, Elvira and Sofia at Peninsula, Linda and Julia at ICIS, Debbie at Kodak, Diane at Sasol, and no doubt many more. Well done to all of us!
You’re reading this week’s pricing report on your chemical of choice and thinking if only those prices were $20/tonne higher, how much easier your life would be. But how to do it? Ever think of picking up the phone and persuading the ICIS editor that the market is moving up this week?
Here are some masterclass tips on how to have input to the reports. Be nice. Return calls, preferably before deadlines. Answer questions, and be full of useful information. Do this consistently over months and even years and you are well on the way to seeing your numbers in print.
And here are a few obvious don’ts. Don’t harangue your editor for hours, wasting precious reporting time when he/she could be gathering useful information. Don’t shout abuse at any time of day, but particularly not around deadline time. Don’t send multiple and incoherent emails of complaint to the editor, or higher levels of authority, written in rage and all in lower-case lettering, and particularly not over the weekend.
Needless to say, ICIS couldn’t produce the high quality pricing reports we do without the input from a wide range of excellent contacts throughout the industry. Most of our editorial contacts are a delight to deal with – intelligent, well-informed, friendly and very forthcoming. Of course you are.
Welcome to the first Chemicals Confidential blog, on the RBI Charity Blogathon today, Monday 24 September 2007. Reed has generously promised to donate £50 to charity for every blogger, and extra for every hit on the blog
and every comment you post here today, so go ahead and make a comment - it's all in a good cause ...
If you've got this far you're friends, family or someone who subscribes to ICIS out there in the petchem world. Here's a taster of things we're talking about today. The theme is trivia and gossip in the chemical industry.