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The world turned upside down
Do you ever while away the time on a long flight watching your progress on the moving map? Speaking as a geography geek, it’s one of the more interesting things to be found on the back of the seat in front. When it gets really interesting is when there is a topographic map, showing the geography below in 3D – the twisted cords of the Appalachian chain, the brutal uplift of the Persian plateau or the more gentle escarpment of your editor’s homeland, the Midlands uplands.
Some of these moving maps also give a frontal view, showing the oncoming land masses and towns. That can give the viewer quite a shock, seeing the map of the world ‘the wrong way round’. Look how straight is the coastline of Belgium from Blankenbirge to Dunkerque, how massive the outlet of the St Lawrence, how close together are clustered the old capitals of central Europe.
Turning the map around makes the world look different. Maybe that’s the reason Australians are the way they are. Turning this issue of the Bulletin round will also give you a different perspective – go on, try it! Just as a one-off experiment, this month’s issue is printed in two halves, with the ‘back’ half running backwards and upside down.
Have we gone crazy? Or is it the world that is out of whack? Well, neither, really. We had an idea to highlight our venerable age – in this, our 33rd year of publication – and, with the support of industry, to remember as well that this month will feature the 32nd annual ILTA conference and trade show in Houston, Texas.
One handy result of this is that those of you who have no interest in storage terminals can easily avoid our lengthy coverage of the sector. We have, for instance, our annual – and increasingly lengthy – wrap-up of all the expansion projects underway, recently completed or starting soon; we have reports from other recent events on the terminals business in Europe and Singapore; and we have a bunch of other news items of interest.
So, if that’s not your bag, then feel free to ignore. But… Even if you are not involved in the terminals sector as an operator or cargo owner, you might want to keep an eye on what is going on. Terminals are the fulcrum of the supply chain; they can be used to break and make bulk to help the logistics function operate more readily; they often act as holding points where cargo interests can hide product until an arbitrage opportunity opens up; they are increasingly finding a use as blending locations to help deliver the right product into the right market at the right time; they help local industry handle its feedstock and/or export requirements. In short, their influence on the industry is much bigger than it might seem at first glance.
Take, for example, our report from Vietnam. Strong economic growth is creating an urgent need for more terminal capacity; current capacity can just about handle chemical trade but more will be needed. The focus is largely on southern Vietnam, where much of the chemical industry is located, and there is a shortage of capacity in the north, which accounts for 30 per cent of chemical demand.
The government has thrown a spanner in the works by declaring central Vietnam a focus for investment in oil and gas and this is where the country’s first oil refinery is located. But it is hundreds of kilometres from the major consumption areas. Ethanol is also now being exported in larger volumes but here again there are issues: notably, traders need to pick up parcels of 10,000 to 15,000 m3 if they are going to compete on the global market, but draft limitations mean that the largest vessels calling at the country’s terminals are around 8,000 dwt.
This all suggests there’s a lot of business opportunity in Vietnam right now, for terminal operators, companies supplying equipment, engineering firms, logistics specialists… the list goes on. And what is true of Vietnam is true of the other fast growing states in south-east Asia. Ignore them at your peril!