MOSCOW (MRC) -- The ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge in Belgium have agreed to merge, in a move aimed at strengthening their combined position within the global supply chain, reported Chemweek.
The unification process is expected to be finalized before the end of 2021, subject to regulatory and competition approvals, they say. Talks on the merger have been underway since 2018.
The ports will operate under the name Port of Antwerp-Bruges, and say their combination will enable them to be more resilient to future challenges and “take a lead in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.” The combined ports will have a total maritime freight throughput of 278 million metric tons/year, account for the transit of more than 15% of Europe’s liquid natural gas (LNG), and remain “Europe’s most important chemical hub,” they say.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges would have a combined liquid bulk freight total of 81.6 million metric tons, consisting mostly of oil, gas, and chemicals, with Port of Antwerp making up 69 million metric tons of the total. Container volumes at Port of Antwerp, Europe’s largest integrated chemical cluster, rose 6.8% in 2019 to just under 11.9 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), while Zeebrugge handled 1.8 million TEUs. Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Europe’s largest container port, handled 14.8 million TEU in 2019.
Each port is owned by their respective city municipal authorities. The combined venture would see City of Antwerp own 80.2%, with City of Bruges holding 19.8%.
The larger Port of Antwerp has to date specialized mainly in the handling and storage of containers, break bulk, and chemical products, while Zeebrugge is a major port for container handling, automotive, and LNG shipments. “Working more closely together will make it possible to consolidate sustainable growth, not only of each port’s individual market share, but also of the joint market share of both ports together,” they say.
The combined ports, located around 100km from each other, aim to maximize opportunities to develop and optimize interconnectivity between their sites. Transportation of goods by rail between them will be bundled, estuary traffic by inland North Sea vessels will be optimized, and pipeline connections will also be on their initial list of priorities, they say.
Port of Antwerp-Bruges aims to position itself as an import hub for green hydrogen “and will play an active and pioneering role in the hydrogen economy,” they state. It will also continue ongoing efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, and examine methods of applying carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) to contribute to their transition towards becoming a low-carbon port, they add.
As MRC informed earlier, demand and supply growth for naphtha in European markets is likely to be moderate until at least the second quarter of 2021 as inventories are run down and deployment of a COVID-19 vaccine starts to make some headway in reviving oil products demand, according to IHS Markit analysts. Refinery margins in Europe are forecast to remain under pressure from stocks that have built up during the pandemic amid volumes flowing into the region from abroad. Despite low refinery run rates, European naphtha supplies will not be tight because of the imbalance in different refinery yields, says IHS Markit principal analyst Eleanor Budds.
We remind that PKN Orlen (Plock, Poland), the country’s largest petrochemicals producer, says higher margins and sales volumes boosted fourth-quarter EBITDA in its petchems business to 508 million zloty (USD137 million), up 187% year on year (YOY). Improved petchem margins compared to the prior-year period were enhanced by sales volumes in the quarter that rose 17% YOY to 1.4 million metric tons, according to the refining and energy group. Sales volumes for polyolefins rose 47% YOY, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) volumes soared by 115%, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) rose 15%, and fertilizers increased 12%, while olefins sales were broadly flat, it says.
We also remind that the only Czech refinery and major petrochemical producer Unipetrol was renamed Orlen Unipetrol from 1 January, 2021. Unipetrol is 100% owned by the Orlen Group.
Ethylene and propylene are feedstocks for producing polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).
According to MRC's ScanPlast report, Russia's estimated PE consumption totalled 241,030 tonnes in January 2021 versus 217,890 tonnes a year earlier. Only shipments of low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) increased. At the same time, PP shipments to the Russian market reached 141,870 tonnes in January 2021 versus 123,520 tonnes a year earlier. Supply of homopolymer PP and PP block copolymers increased.