Since 2015, the U.S. has started to export more and import less volume of liquid chemical products. U.S. methanol capacity surged 77 percent in 2015 with the addition of around 3.5 million tonnes per year of new capacity. As a result, U.S. methanol exports are starting to change the pattern of the long-haul chemical shipping trade. The volume of U.S. exports to Northeast Asian and Europe rose 12 percent and 20 percent respectively last year. As a result, Drewry expects eastbound trans-Atlantic freight rates in particular to rise over the medium term.
Since sanctions on Iran have been lifted, many new projects in the Middle East are expected to come on stream from this year. For instance, the country’s 2.3 million tonne per year Kaveh Methanol plant is scheduled to start operations in the second half of 2016. Exports from the region to Northwest Asia and Europe rose 5 percent and 23 percent, respectively, in 2015 and Drewry expects the pace of growth to continue over the next three years, boosting freight rates.
However, on the westbound transpacific route many large vessels have joined the trade. For instance, in the second half of 2015, 38 more vessels plied this route, of which 15 were of 30,000-40,000 dwt.
“We expect more large vessels to join the eastbound trans-Pacific trade during 2016 and as a result we expect freight rates to weaken in the short term but to remain stable over the medium term,” said Hu Qing, Drewry’s lead analyst for chemical shipping.
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