Global seaborne LPG volumes saw continued growth in 2017 reaching 91.9 million tonnes, 4.3% higher than the 88.1 million tonnes shipped in 2016, says Epic Gas.
Epic Gas loaded 2.8 million tonnes in 2017 and was involved in 2,486 cargo operations in 266 different ports. LPG cargoes made up 80% of the cargoes lifted with the balance being petrochemical.
At the year end, we had 4 vessels operating in the Americas, 18 in the Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) belt and 19 in Asia.
Propylene imports into China reached a record high of 3.1 million tonnes, a 6.8% year on year increase despite a 16% increase in domestic Propane DeHydrogenation (PDH) capacity. Monthly imports in the last quarter averaged 295,000 tonnes indicating strong downstream demand.
During the year, there was significant growth of propylene cargoes out of Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia
, with Japan and Malaysia also
showing moderate gains. This contributed additional tonnemiles to the usual North Asia trade flow from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
The smaller 3,500cbm and 5,000cbm vessels are the preferred sizes in these trades and the tightening market and an upward movement in rates for these vessel sizes is a case in point.
"Our operations in the LPG break bulk trade has continued to grow. Epic’s vessels carried out 82 shipto-ship (STS) operations during the last quarter, and a total of 413 during the year, which was more than double the number carried out in 2016, and equivalent to about 17% of our loadings," says Epic Gas statement.
Pressurised LPG exports from the USA increased in the fourth quarter, up by 30% from the previous quarter and almost on par with the stronger first half of the year. Exports to the Caribbean and Central America remained firm, with a noteworthy transatlantic cargo to the Mediterranean also loaded in December, a year since the last such delivery.
Epic has remained involved with new projects in the region. Most recently, one of our vessels made the first ever delivery of pressurised LPG to a new facility in Puerto Sandino, Nicaragua.
The year 2017 ended with a total of 329 pressure vessels (non-Chinese flagged over 3,000cbm) on the water, including 8 newbuilds totaling 74,500cbm that delivered during the year. Two pressure vessels involved in international trade were scrapped.
They totalled 7,134cbm and were an average age of 28.5 years. This resulted in a net fleet year on year growth in capacity of 4.1% compared to 6.4% in the previous year.
Presently, there are 6 newbuild vessels to be delivered in 2018 and 2019 representing a 1.8% increase in existing fleet capacity, the lowest supply growth in any bulk commodity shipping sector.
Further, in the existing international trading fleet, there are 11 ships / 36,537cbm that are aged 28 years and older, making them potential scrapping candidates, which will further reduce the aforementioned 1.8% fleet growth rate.