Business World

Saturday 3 December 2016

All is not shipshape as Chinese continue to reel from port blast

Published 18/08/2015 | 02:30

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Operations have reportedly resumed at Tianjin Port in north-east China, after blasts killed more than 100 people and decimated a large area of the port's storage last week.

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It is easy to forget, amid the stark photos showing the charred, almost apocalyptic landscape left in the wake of the explosions, that this remains a crucial trading hub for the world's second biggest economy, and its closure has had a knock-on effect on imports of oil, gas and bulk goods.

Tianjin, just 146km south-east of Beijing, is the main maritime gateway to the sprawling Chinese capital and is the world's 11th busiest container port last year. The port is a gateway to northern China for metal ore, coal, cars and crude oil.

In 2013, the port handled 500m tonnes of cargo .

The explosions last week led to the disruption of all chemical and oil tanker discharges at the port, and imports of iron ore were also affected.

But data compiled by financial newswire Reuters showed that tankers were discharging again, with traders and shippers confirming that operations had restarted over the weekend.

The Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration's traffic control department said in a statement: "At present, ships apart from those carrying hazardous goods or bunker oil are entering and exiting Tianjin Port's north section normally. All other berths are operating normally according to sailing plans."

But Bloomberg was reporting that more than 100 vessels remained anchored in the waters off the port, including around 70 bulk carriers, more than 20 dry cargo, as well as passenger ships and 11 tankers as of yesterday morning. The blasts caused the port's northern wharf to be closed to vessels carrying oil and hazardous products.

Toyota will shut three of its production lines in China until tomorrow because of evacuation advisories still in effect, while companies with local units such as US agricultural-machinery maker Deere & Co said facilities were damaged or operations affected. Carmakers such as Renault reported damage to vehicles stored at the port. Volkswagen will re-route shipments through Shanghai, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Chongqing and Wuhan, spokeswoman Larissa Braun said. Singamas Container Holdings said its logistics subsidiary, located about 800 metres from the blasts, was damaged and it hasn't been able to contact one employee.

But, normal operations may be starting to resume in some areas. Reuters spoke to several captains of tankers and dry bulk freighters that are currently in the Tianjin port region, either waiting to discharge or to leave the port, and all said that operations now seemed to be broadly back to normal.

One shipbroker said he had not heard of any problems with oil operations at the port on Monday. "So far, so good," he said. An oil trader also said he had not heard of any trouble with oil loading at Tianjin.

China, the world's biggest crude oil consumer alongside the United States, imports nearly 60pc of the crude it consumes

Although ship entries and exits seemed to be returning to normal, shippers said the blasts had worsened the port congestion Tianjin already suffered from. China Ocean Shipping Company, China's largest shipping group, said its ships anchored at Tianjin had not been affected but that some of its facilities in the area suffered varying levels of damage.

While Tianjin was the world's 11th busiest port last year, China also plays host to much larger ports. The world's largest in 2014 was Shanghai, while Shenzhen and Hong Kong also made the top five. (Agencies)

Irish Independent

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