Polypropylene (PP)

Versatility shaping the plastics industry 

Discover the factors influencing polypropylene (PP) markets

With its unique properties and versatility, polypropylene (PP) is an invaluable global commodity, influencing key industries from packaging and automotive to electrical and household. Its ability to be manufactured into various end-uses such as plastic car parts and textiles has made PP an essential market to understand and navigate. Even the slightest change can have the most significant impact. This is why our experts are embedded in markets across the globe, monitoring, tracking and understanding developments affecting PP so you can make the best decisions with the right information.

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2024 and beyond: global chemicals outlook

The global landscape for chemicals has changed significantly, with a lower demand growth expected to persist, however within these challenges and changes lies opportunity for those who adapt.

Polypropylene (PP) news

PODCAST: Asia R-PET to outperform R-PP, R-PE in H2 2024

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Recycled polymers markets in Asia face different market dynamics, driven by various factors such as additional capacities, inflationary pressures and support from downstream demand. Asia R-PET trade to gain support from new extrusion capacities within Asia, long-haul markets Asia R-PE could continue to perform poorly in H2 amid cheaper virgin PE prices, inflationary pressures impacting finished good demand Asia R-PP could garner support from automotive sector uptake; trade expected to be moderate until end of 2024 In this podcast, Asia recycling senior editor Arianne Perez discusses what lies ahead in the recycled polymers markets, in terms of trends and opportunities.

28-May-2024

Latin America stories: weekly summary

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Here are some of the stories from ICIS Latin America for the week ended on 24 May. NEWS Brazil’s Triunfo petchems restart odd one out as wider industry still disrupted – consultant Most of Rio Grande do Sul’s industrial plants remain shut or operating at very low rates as the Brazilian state reels from the floods, with the restart at the Triunfo petrochemicals hub an exception rather than the norm, a chemicals consultant at MaxiQuim said to ICIS. Mexico’s Orbia/Vestolit's Altamira plant ceases operations due to water scarcity Orbia/Vestolit ceased operations at its Altamira, Tampico facilities in Mexico on 21 May due to water scarcity. The company operates there a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) facility with a production capacity of 690,000 tonnes/year. The company estimates it could resume activity on 19 June. SABIC declares force majeure at Tampico Mexico ABS plant SABIC Innovative Plastics Mexico (SABIC) declared force majeure at its Tampico, Mexico acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plant on 23 May. The products affected include CYCOLAC ABS.  This facility has a capacity of 30,000 tonnes. Mexico’s Q1 GDP grows 0.3%, economic activity remains healthy in MarchMexico’s GDP rose by 0.3% in Q1, an acceleration from Q4’s 0.1% quarterly growth, the country’s statistic office Inegi said on Thursday. Brazil’s antitrust authority paves way for Petrobras to shed refinery sales Brazilian state-owned energy major Petrobras has been allowed by the country’s antitrust authority CADE to backtrack on planned refinery sales. Argentina’s manufacturing down nearly 20% in March Argentina’s petrochemicals-intensive manufacturing output fell in March by 19.6% year on year, the country’s statistics office, Indec, said this week. Brazil’s Unigel creditors mull fertilizers divestment The debt restructuring agreement at Unigel, under which the Brazilian chemicals producer’s creditors are to take a 50% equity stake, could result in a divestment of the company's beleaguered fertilizers division. Brazil’s Unigel to give creditors 50% equity stake in debt restructuring Unigel has obtained the support of enough creditors for a debt restructuring plan although it comes at a price as they will be getting a 50% equity stake in the Brazilian chemical and fertilizer producer. Brazil's Braskem restart at Triunfo to kick off petchem hub normalization Braskem has restarted operations at its Triunfo facility in the flood-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul, which will allow other players in the petrochemicals hub to start up their plants as many depend on input from the Brazilian polymers major to operate. INEOS Styrolution declares force majeure at Altamira Mexico facility INEOS Styrolution declared force majeure at its facility in Altamira, Mexico, on 20 May. The products affected include Teluran ABS, Novodur High Heat ABS and Luran ASA. This facility has a capacity of 113,000 tonnes. Chile’s Q1 GDP up 2.3% on strong consumption, manufacturing up 1.1% The Chilean economy started 2024 on a strong footing with GDP growth in the first quarter at 2.3%, year on year, the country’s central bank said on Monday. Volkswagen, Stellantis idle car plants in Brazil, Argentina after floods Volkswagen (VW) idled its three plants in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo on Monday, as suppliers in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul are unable to produce any automotive parts, a spokesperson for the German automotive major told ICIS. PRICING LatAm PP international prices stable to up on higher Asian freights International polypropylene (PP) prices were assessed as steady to higher across Latin American countries due to the surge in freight rates from Asia to the region. LatAm PE domestic, international prices steady on sufficient supply, stable demand Domestic and international polyethylene (PE) prices were assessed unchanged this week across Latin American countries on the back of sufficient supply and stable demand.

27-May-2024

Europe top stories: weekly summary

LONDON (ICIS)–Here are some of the top stories from ICIS Europe for the week ended 24 May. Brenntag CEO says Europe must play to its strengths Europe’s chemical sector is seeing a wave of commodity production closures, which is likely to accelerate as the region is suffering from structurally higher energy costs and depressed margins since it lost access to cheap Russian gas. Europe epoxy sentiment stable, Asia imports may face EU antidumping claim Europe epoxy resins prices have been mainly agreed with rollovers for May so far, in spite of a drop in feedstock costs this month. Speculation is also growing over EU anti-dumping claims against Asian imports. Europe naphtha and gasoline prices firm on improved liquidity, summer optimism Liquidity in Europe's naphtha and gasoline markets improved in the week to 17 May as stable-to-soft prices encouraged buying appetite, just as the market is gearing up for an uptick in demand ahead of the summer holidays. Europe PE, PP contract prices down beyond monomer for May Europe’s polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) freely negotiated prices for May are down, with variance by grade

27-May-2024

LOGISTICS: Container rates surge, chem tanker rates ease; Canada rail strike unlikely before July

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Rates for shipping containers continued to surge, liquid chemical tanker rates were flat to softer, and a possible freight rail strike in Canada is unlikely before mid-July, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES The global average for shipping containers has surged past the level seen in late January because of unseasonal increases in demand for ocean freight ex-Asia, as shown in the following chart. Rates are being pressured higher because of possible start of a restocking cycle in Europe and as US importers pull forward some peak-season demand on concerns of pending labor issues or additional Red Sea disruptions later in the year, according to Judah Levine, head of research at online freight shipping marketplace and platform provider Freightos. Rates for containers ex-Asia to both US coasts and to Europe are also nearing multimonth highs, as shown in the following chart. Drewry expects the spike in spot freight rates to lessen in the next few months. But Levine pointed to general rate increase (GRI) announcements for June, which he said indicate that carriers are not expecting demand to ease or conditions to improve in the short term. CMA CGM is setting Asia – north Europe rates at $6,000/FEU (40-foot equivalent unit) starting 1 June, and Hapag-Lloyd has announced an Asia – North America Peak Season Surcharge of $600/FEU to start June that will climb to $2,000/FEU mid-month. Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. LIQUID CHEM TANKER RATES Rates for liquid chemical tankers ex-US Gulf were flat to lower this week. US chemical tanker freight rates assessed by ICIS were mostly steady to lower as rates fell from the US Gulf (USG) to both Asia and India while also edging lower from the USG to Rotterdam. However, were unchanged from the USG to Caribbean and South America. Overall, the market was subdued entering the long holiday weekend. From the USG to Asia, this market has remained overall soft despite a few larger monoethylene glycol (MEG) parcels being seen in the market. From the USG to Rotterdam, it has remained quiet again this week, with available space for part cargo still open amid a lack of inquiries or interest from charterers. CANADA FREIGHT RAIL LABOR ISSUES A possible freight rail strike in Canada is not likely to begin before mid-July, according to rail carrier Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). The ongoing uncertainties over the looming strike make it hard for Canadian chemical, fertilizer and other industrial producers, in particular exporters, to prepare for a work stoppage. After about 9,300 unionized conductors, train operators and engineers at freight rail carriers CPKC and Canadian National (CN) earlier this month voted for a strike as early as 22 May. Canada’s federal labor minister referred the matter to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), a quasi-judicial tribunal charged with keeping industrial peace in Canada. PORT OF BALTIMORE The full reopening of the Port of Baltimore is closer after the Key Bridge Response Unified Command (UC) refloated the container ship Dali on Monday morning and moved it away from the scene of the collision. The Dali struck the Francis Scott Key bridge on 26 March, causing its collapse, and essentially closing the port. The closing of the port did not have a significant impact on the chemicals industry as chemicals make up only about 4% of total tonnage that moves through the port, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked southbound vessels ready for transit fell this week for traffic in both directions, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times a week ago were 3.6 days for northbound vessels and 13.9 days for southbound vessels. With additional reporting by Kevin Callahan and Stefan Baumgarten

24-May-2024

BLOG: A personal view of the new petrochemicals world

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Click here to see the latest blog post on Asian Chemical Connections by John Richardson: Here is a personal view of where the petrochemicals world is heading with the conclusions or scenarios from today’s post detailed below (the debate is the thing as this is how we move forward together): The US chemicals industry (with benefits trickling down to Canada) continues to thrive thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, tariffs and feedstock advantages. Local demand growth could surprise on the upside as local investments, especially in greener petrochemicals production, continue. Dow Chemical is, for example, pressing-ahead with its two-phase plans for developing its site at Fort Saskatchewan in Canada, involving lower-carbon capacity additions. It is also talking about building a lower-carbon cracker in the US Gulf later-on which would be “scrap and build” – shutting down an older higher-carbon cracker complex. Europe sees a new industrial master plan. It won’t be perfect, there will be lots of trial and error and the problems will remain of coordinating government policies across the 27 EU members, enforcing EU-level policies that are only directives rather than regulations and the complexity of policies (the EU Green Deal is some 40,000 pages long). But Europe moves towards unified electricity, plastic-waste and bio-feedstock markets that the Antwerp Declaration called for. Some capacities are rationalized. A combination of these shutdowns, more protection and more EU-wide coordinated support for green incentives return the industry to good profitability. Crucially as renewable electricity capacity increases, European energy and thus electricity costs decline. China’s chemicals demand grows at 1-3% per year, down from long-term historic growth rates of around 10% or more. This places major pressure on the big petrochemical exporters to China – South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, the Middle East and on the US in these products – PE, PVC and MEG. Weaker-than-forecast Chinese demand growth combines with increased Chinese self-sufficiency. This reduces the size of import markets. As regards self-sufficiency, China pushes its operating rates higher in order to minimize imports in response to supply-chain insecurities arising from geopolitical tensions. But China’s petrochemicals exports struggle because of the increase in trade measures. China is a well-established major exporter in PVC, PTA, polyester fibres and PET bottle and fibre grades. More recently it became a major exporter in PP. Trade measures against China provide opportunities for other exporters. As petrochemicals markets become more regional, some of the big new export-focused petrochemicals projects come into question. Editor’s note: This blog post is an opinion piece. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of ICIS.

23-May-2024

Freight rates on China exports soar amid Red Sea crisis

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Freight rates for China's exports, including petrochemicals, have been spiking in recent weeks and are expected to remain firm in the next three to six months on the back of improving overseas demand and amid continued logistics disruptions in the Middle East. Geopolitical tensions translate to higher shipping cost, longer delivery time Container shortages intensifying in China Freight rates to remain firm on strong western demand Most ocean carriers have halted transits in the Red Sea, which is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, fearing missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. They have opted to take the longer route via the Cape of Good Hope, resulting in much longer time and costs for moving cargoes to their destinations. The Red Sea crisis is showing no signs of de-escalation, with the latest casualty being the Panama-flagged oil tanker M/T Wind bound for China, which was struck by a Houthi-launched ballistic missile on 18 May. Logistics and supply chain disruptions are expected to continue. Dutch shipping giant Maersk had said on 6 May that its vessels have been forced to lengthen their journey further because of the expanded risk zone and attacks reaching further offshore in the Rea Sea. “The knock-on effects of the situation have included bottlenecks and vessel bunching, as well as delays and equipment and capacity shortages,” the company had said, estimating an industrywide capacity loss of 15-20% on the Far East-to-North Europe and Mediterranean market during the second quarter. CONTAINERS/VESSEL SPACE IN SEVERE SHORTAGE As carriers now need longer time to come back from destinations, the resulting severe shortage of containers and vessel space was triggering sharp spikes in freight rates. From Shanghai to the US west coast and the US east coast, freight rates on 17 May jumped to $5,025/forty-foot equivalent unit (FEU), and $6,026/FEU, respectively, up by 14.4% and 8.3% week on week, according to the Shanghai Shipping Exchange. To South America from China’s financial capital, the shipping cost increased at a sharper rate of 22.4%, while to Europe, freight rates rose by 6.3%, the data showed. A shipping broker said that China-to-Europe freights have been soaring by $500-$800/FEU each week since late April, while a polypropylene (PP) trader noted that the rates to West Africa more than tripled to $8,000/FEU, more than a fourfold increase from $1,500-$2,000/FEU rates in early April. “We now need to wait 10-15 days for booking containers. We face severe stockpiling and warehouses are flooded with cargoes waiting for shipment,” said a marketing manager of a Shenzhen-based logistics company. A plastic bag factory in east China is currently stuck with high inventories and risk suspending production, a source from the company said For vinyl acetate producers, a shortage of shipping tanks prevents them from exporting more cargoes, providing them with the less-efficient means of bulk shipments with other products as the only alternative. ROBUST WESTERN DEMAND SUPPORTS FIRM RATES The recent spike in freight rates came as a surprise to players in the petrochemical industry as the May-June period is normally a lull season for Chinese exports. Besides the Red Sea crisis, strong demand coming from the west underlies the recent surge in freight rates. “July-September is the peak season for China-to-West shipping. With [the] destocking last year, Europe and US markets demand are expected to rise substantially before the Christmas [season in December],” said Wang Guowen, director of Shenzhen Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research. “Plus, Europe and UK central banks are expected to cut interest rates, which will further stimulate consumptions there,” he added, noting that demand from both Europe and the US will remain strong rest of the year. This will continue to buoy up shipping rates, which are projected to hover at high rates over the next three to six months, industry sources said. On 16 May, Maersk announced a hike in peak season surcharge (PSS) for major east-to-west shipping lanes, including the China-to-Dar es Salaam, Tanzania route, PPS for which increased to $1,500/FEU since 20 May. Meanwhile, French shipping and logistics major CMA CGM plan to hike its Asia-to-northern Europe freights to $6,000/FEU, effective 1 June. Current container production in China could not catch up with strong demand. New China-manufactured containers to be delivered before late June have been sold out, a source at domestic logistics company said. Wang of Shenzhen Logistics and Supply Chain Management Research, however, noted that the present container shortage is not about undersupply but more about the sharp slowdown in turnover amid the global logistics disruptions. Tight shipping conditions are expected to prevail in the third quarter as demand is expected to peak, with a gradual easing of freight rates likely in the fourth quarter, he said. Focus article by Fanny Zhang Additional reporting by Joanne Wang and Lucy Shuai Thumbnail image: At the container terminal of Yantian Port in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province in south China, 16 May 2024 (Shutterstock)

22-May-2024

Brazil’s Braskem restarts Triunfo facilities after flooding

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Braskem has restarted its facilities at the Triunfo petrochemicals hub in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul, a spokesperson for the Brazilian polymers major said to ICIS on Monday. Braskem said it hopes to have all facilities up and running normally in 15 days. Triunfo represents around 30% of Braskem’s production capacities in Brazil. The company said the restart will be undertaken by phases, as long as weather and access to the site allows. While most petrochemicals plants at Triunfo were not damaged by the flooding, access of workers as well as inputs into the plants was very difficult as the floods blocked several roads in the state. Braskem and other chemical companies at Triunfo declared force majeure at the beginning of May. “In recent days, our teams have been focused on seeking safe conditions to resume production and, thus, contribute more actively to the supply of raw materials for the production of important items for this time of need,” said Braskem’s industrial director, Nelzo da Silva. “To start up the plants, it will be necessary to activate the flare, a standard safety device used by the chemical and petrochemical industries. As part of this process… in the coming days, residents in the area may notice a different light than usual coming from our factories.” Braskem is Brazil’s sole manufacturer of polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), the most widely used polymers. Its market share in 2023 for PE stood at 56% and for PP at 70%, according to figures from the ICIS Supply and Demand Database. The Triunfo complex, meanwhile, is key for the country’s polymers supply chain, accounting for nearly 37% of Brazil’s PP capacity and 40% of PE capacity. Brazil’s PP production capacity is nearly 2 million tonnes/year. PE capacity is about 3 million tonnes/year, with 41% being high density polyethylene (HDPE), 33% being linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE) and 26% being low density polyethylene (LDPE). Braskem’s Triunfo complex can produce 740,000 tonnes/year of PP, 550,000 tonnes/year of HDPE, 385,000 tonnes/year of LDPE and 300,000 tonnes/year of LLDPE. Front page picture: Braskem's facilities in Triunfo Source: Braskem Additional reporting by Bruno Menini

20-May-2024

Volkswagen, Stellantis idle car plants in Brazil, Argentina after floods

SAO PAULO (ICIS)–Volkswagen (VW) idled its three plants in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo on Monday, as suppliers in the floods-hit state of Rio Grande do Sul are unable to produce any automotive parts, a spokesperson for the German automotive major told ICIS. At the same time, a spokesperson for Stellantis, another major auto producer, confirmed to ICIS that it had shut down its plant in Ferreyra, in Argentina’s Cordoba province, also due to a lack of input. Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil’s southernmost state and petrochemicals-intensive automotive parts producers there are major suppliers to the rest of Brazil and Argentina. However, the state is still reeling from severe flooding on 29 April which has brought around 90% of industrial activity to a standstill, according to local authorities. VOLKSWAGENVW is using a so-called “collective vacation” clause under Brazilian labor laws to send workers at its plants in Anchieta, Taubate, and Sao Carlos home for at least 10 days. However, a plant operated by VW in Sao Jose dos Pinhais, in the state of Parana, continues to operate normally, VW said. "Volkswagen do Brasil informs that continues with the same preventive vacation position. The situation of parts supply is being monitored minute by minute,” said the spokesperson. The workers at the Anchieta and Taubate plants will start a 10-day collective vacation on Monday, and the workers at the Sao Carlos plant will start an 11-day collective vacation on the same day. 'Collective vacation' is a measure regularly applied by industrial companies to manage production. Brazil’s labor laws normally grant employees around 30 days/year of annual leave. In the industrial sector, as work is a "collective" activity, vacation periods can be organized by the employer for a group of employees, hence the name. STELLANTISIn the meantime, Stellantis – the result of the merger between Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group – told ICIS that it is analyzing whether its other plants in Argentina and Brazil will also need to be shut down. In Cordoba, a province in north Argentina and a major trading partner with Rio Grande do Sul, there are fears that its economy – which is already suffering after the country went into recession – could take a further hit. In Argentina, Stellantis operates another plant in El Palomar, in the Buenos Aires department. In Brazil, its main facilities are in Betim in the state of Minas Gerais. “Stellantis is following with dismay and expresses its solidarity with the victims of the floods in Rio Grande do Sul. The unprecedented impact of the catastrophe has directly affected the logistics system for the transportation and supply of industry components. “The company had to stop production at the Stellantis Automotive Centers in Córdoba, Argentina, and is still analyzing the need for further stoppages at its plants in the region,” said the spokesperson. Both General Motors (GM) and South Korea's Hyundai – who also have production facilities in Brazil – had yet to respond to a request for a comment. A spokesperson for Brazil’s automotive trade group Anfavea did not respond to questions from ICIS about the impact of the floods on the sector's annual output. However, it did say that it would make its first estimates at a press conference on 6 June, when it will publish production, sales and export data for May. Earlier, the trade group said it feared the sector could be hit given Rio Grande do Sul's importance to Brazil's auto industry. INDUSTRY REELS AFTER FLOODSCompanies based in the petrochemicals hub of Triunfo, near Porto Alegre – the biggest city in Rio Grande do Sul – have also shut, mostly as employees are having problems getting to and from work. Companies including Braskem, Innova, and Arlanxeo all declared force majeure from Triunfo in the first week of May. Sources said some of them will try to restart operations this week, although that has not been officially confirmed to ICIS. The automotive industry is a major global consumer of petrochemicals, and chemicals make up more than one-third of the raw material costs for an average vehicle. The automotive sector drives demand for chemicals such as polypropylene (PP), along with nylon, polystyrene (PS), styrene butadiene rubber (SBR), polyurethane (PU), methyl methacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), among others. Front page picture: Volkswagen's plant in Anchieta, state of Sao Paulo Source: Volkswagen

20-May-2024

Asia top stories – weekly summary

SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Here are the top stories from ICIS News Asia and the Middle East for the week ended 17 May 2024. Asia melamine makers grapple with increased costs, slowing demand By Joy Foo 17-May-24 11:53 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s melamine spot market for China-origin product was largely stable in the first half of May, even though feedstock urea prices continued to rise, but demand may weaken for the rest of the month. Singapore's April petrochemical exports rise 26.5%; NODX down 9.3% By Nurluqman Suratman 17-May-24 10:45 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Singapore's petrochemical shipments rose by 26.5% year on year in April to Singapore dollar (S$) 1.34 billion, reversing the 3.6% decline in the previous month, official data showed on Friday. PODCAST: China PP exports to weigh on SE Asia on ample propylene supply By Damini Dabholkar 16-May-24 21:55 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The ample supply of propylene in Asia and new polypropylene (PP) capacities in China are expected to weigh on discussions in southeast Asia over the coming months. Tanker incident triggers rate hike on South Korea-Japan trades By Hwee Hwee Tan 16-May-24 11:28 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–The intra northeast Asia tanker market is expected to remain stable despite recent volatility in South Korea-Japan chemical freight rates, following a fatal tanker incident off Japan’s west coast. US hikes tariffs on $18bn worth of China imports, including EVs By Nurluqman Suratma 15-May-24 12:20 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–US President Joe Biden is ramping up tariffs on $18 billion worth of imports from China, including electric vehicles (EVs), semiconductors, batteries and other goods, in a move that the White House said was a response to unfair trade practices and intended to protect US jobs. Asia polyester discussions stable amid reduced supply, lower feedstock prices By Judith Wang 14-May-24 14:55 SINGAPORE (ICIS)–Asia’s polyester export discussions were little changed as the pressure of reduced supply in China was balanced out by weaker feedstock prices.

20-May-2024

LOGISTICS: Container rates continue to surge, liquid chem tanker rates mostly lower

HOUSTON (ICIS)–Average global rates for shipping containers continue to surge, liquid chemical tanker rates ex-US Gulf were mostly softer, and work continues to reopen the Port of Baltimore, highlighting this week’s logistics roundup. CONTAINER RATES Rates for shipping containers surged by double digits again this week on unexpected demand and tight capacity stemming from Red Sea diversions. Average global rates surged by 11% over the week, according to supply chain advisors Drewry and as shown in the following chart. Meanwhile, rates from Shanghai to the US West Coast are up by almost 33% from early-February and rates from Shanghai to the East Coast are more than 30% higher over that period, as shown in the following chart. Drewry expects ex-China freight rates to rise due to increased demand, tight capacity, and the need to reposition empty containers. Emily Stausbøll, senior shipping analyst at ocean and freight rate analytics firm Xeneta, said the speed of the increases is causing nervousness in the market. “Demand reached record levels in Q1 2024, up by 9.2% compared to Q1 2023, and comes at a time when the Red Sea situation is putting increased pressure on shipping capacity,” she said. “But significantly, this is all taking place while the chaos of port congestion and lack of available capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic is still fresh in the memory of shippers.” “Lessons will have been learned from the pandemic. If shippers fear there is going to be a squeeze on capacity during the peak season in Q3 then they are going to start importing more goods now,” Stausbøll said. “If these increased volumes need to be moved on the spot market, then it is going to put upwards pressure on rates." Container ships and costs for shipping containers are relevant to the chemical industry because while most chemicals are liquids and are shipped in tankers, container ships transport polymers, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are shipped in pellets. They also transport liquid chemicals in isotanks. LIQUID TANKER RATES US chemical tanker freight rates assessed by ICIS were mostly lower as rates fell from the US Gulf (USG) to Asia and from the USG to India. However, rates ticked slightly higher for smaller parcels from the USG to Caribbean and surged from the USG to Brazil. From the USG to Rotterdam, it has remained quiet again this week, with available space for part cargo still open. COA volumes have been heavy for owners; however, spot inquiries have been quiet. Due to the available space and softness, this could place further downward pressure on this trade lane. From the USG to the Caribbean, the market has remained higher with very little prompt space available. Owners have pushed to keep freight rates mostly steady; however, there is currently a lack of activity from out of the USG. From the USG to Asia, this market has remained overall soft after a long holiday week in Japan. BALTIMORE, HOUSTON BRIDGE COLLISIONS Traffic in and out of the Houston Ship Channel was not affected after a barge struck a bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican islands on Wednesday morning. JJ Plunkett of the Houston Pilots said the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) was closed, which could slow movement of barges moving finished product from plants along the channel. Ships enter the channel by passing between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula and then move through Galveston Bay before reaching the main section of the channel where refineries, chemical plants and storage facilities are located. The barge collided with a bridge that connects Galveston Island to Pelican Island, located well to the west of where commercial vessels enter and exit Galveston Bay. Meanwhile at the Port of Baltimore, the container ship that essentially closed the port on 26 March after it struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing its collapse, is set to be moved now that the mangled remnants of the span were removed from the ship’s bow with controlled blasts on 13 May. Officials continued to evaluate the situation on Friday in preparation for refloating the vessel and clearing the federal channel. Officials have evaluated sonar and lidar imagery but are awaiting results from a dive survey before proceeding with plans to refloat and move the vessel. The closing of the port did not have a significant impact on the chemicals industry as chemicals make up only about 4% of total tonnage that moves through the port, according to data from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). The ACC said less than 1% of all chemicals involved in waterborne commerce, both domestic and trade volumes, pass through Baltimore. PANAMA CANAL Wait times for non-booked southbound vessels ready for transit surged this week while wait times for northbound vessels edged higher, according to the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) vessel tracker and as shown in the following image. Wait times a week ago were 2.6 days for northbound vessels and 2.4 days for southbound vessels. Additional reporting by Kevin Callahan

17-May-2024

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