A year-to-date comparison of total South Korean chemical imports up to March this year shows an increase of 170,000 tonnes with major gains for toluene, methanol and styrene. All other products saw comparatively smaller rises in imports with the exception of ethanol, benzene, other xylenes and paraxylene. The decline of other xylene imports followed the capacity expansion of the Hyundai chemical plant in Daesan by 1 million tonnes per annum in October last year.
Japanese imports over the same period increased by 74,000 tonnes. Major increases were for benzene, ethylene dichloride and methanol each rising by an average of 33,000 tonnes; offset by a decline totalling 20,000 tonnes of MTBE and ethanol.
From the Taiwanese year-to-date data, which is currently available up to February, imports grew slightly by 60,000 tonnes. The products with major gains were methanol, ethylene dichloride, paraxylene and toluene which were offset by declines in MTBE, ethylene glycol, acrylonitrile and benzene.
All three Northeast Asian countries have seen rises in methanol imports this year mainly driven by more cargoes coming from the USA and the Middle East.
South Korean exports have increased significantly by 307,000 tonnes in the first quarter of this year. Paraxylene and benzene accounted for most of this rise increasing by 283,000 tonnes and 131,000 tonnes respectively; the impact was reduced by declines in toluene, styrene and ethylene dichloride totalling 106,000 tonnes.
Taiwanese exports also increased significantly by 51 per cent this year up by 281,000 tonnes. There was an upward trend for most products, of which ethylene glycol accounted for around 78 per cent of the total increase, while styrene, MTBE and acrylonitrile were the only products to see contractions.
Japanese exports saw volumes slump by 162,000 tonnes, with major declines in other xylenes by 166,000 tonnes, mainly due to a slowdown in volumes heading towards South Korea which saw an increase in domestic capacity. There were small gains for toluene and acrylonitrile exports totalling 42,000 tonnes.
To summarise, total exports for Taiwan and South Korea have risen by 51 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, with Japanese exports reducing by 10 per cent. Based purely on changes to year-to-date figures, total exports from Northeast Asia will increase by 12.5 per cent in 2017.
All three countries saw a rise in import volumes with South Korea increasing the fastest by 17 per cent this year, followed by Japan and Taiwan both increasing by 8 per cent. This translates into an overall increase of imports into Northeast Asia of 10.9 per cent.
The above is from the Chemical Carrier World service provided by Richardson Lawrie Associates Ltd (RLA), a firm of international maritime economists and business consultants. More information can be found at www.richardsonlawrie.com.