Baltimore bridge collapse could slow US caustic transit

  • : Chemicals
  • 24/03/27

The collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge could slow movement of caustic soda in the northeastern US at a time when tank supplies in the region were already tight.

Caustic soda distributors have tanks in Baltimore where material can be sourced from both domestic and European producers by truck, rail or ship. In the past US producers have moved caustic soda by ship up the east coast to meet demand in the region, particularly when European producers have had fewer cargoes available.

Any threat to supply flow through Baltimore by ship is lessened by the presence of other tanks in the region, including nearby Philadelphia, that can be supplied by overland methods. But even modest complications to logistics for a couple of weeks could put pressure on pricing in the area.

The Port of Baltimore closure comes as European chlor-alkali rates have risen to meet greater chlorine demand on the continent, producing more by-product caustic soda as a result that could be sold to the US east coast.

Distributors and caustic soda buyers in the northeastern US have warned that inventory levels in the tanks at various sites were getting severely tight during the first quarter before seeing some slight improvement in recent weeks.

This dynamic allowed for price increases from distributors to be implemented in the northeast more consistently in the first quarter compared to other parts of the country, where supply and logistics were better. Argus assessed Northeast US prices in March flat between $1,060-1,110/dst ex-tank after prices had risen $25/dst over the previous two months.

US caustic soda producers have announced price increases for April and second quarter contracts between $35-75/dst.


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24/06/10

Malaysia’s palm oil stocks up slightly in May

Malaysia’s palm oil stocks up slightly in May

London, 10 June (Argus) — Malaysia's palm oil stocks increased slightly at the end of May from the previous month, as growth in production outpaced exports, according to data from the country's palm oil board (MPOB). Total Malaysian palm oil inventories rose to 1.75mn t at the end of May, a 0.5pc increase from April. Crude palm oil production rose by 14pc on the month to 1.7mn t, as peak harvest season commenced. Market participants watch palm oil stock levels to gauge supply-demand dynamics. Malaysia's monthly releases are tracked more closely, as data on its palm oil industry are considered the most reliable. The country is the second-largest palm oil producer globally after Indonesia. The country's palm oil exports rose by 12pc from April to 1.38mn t in May, according to the MPOB. Exports rose despite a recent increase seen in palm oil prices, which has caused its discount to rival soybean, sunflower and rapeseed oils to narrow, and has driven a decline in sales to some price-sensitive markets like India. Palm kernel production rose by 11pc on the month to 408,000t, while output of crude palm kernel oil rose by 26pc to 194,000t. Exports of biodiesel fell by 41pc on the month to 20,900t. External sales of oleochemicals rose by 10pc on the month to 257,400t, while exports of palm kernel oil moved up slightly from April to 87,800t. By Carolina Palma Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Possible Canadian rail strike start delayed again


24/05/31
24/05/31

Possible Canadian rail strike start delayed again

Washington, 31 May (Argus) — The start of a threatened strike by some union workers at Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) has been pushed back again as concerns about fuel and food supplies rise. If it goes forward, the strike would begin sometime after 17 June at the earliest. The Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), which is investigating federal government concerns, has postponed reply comments to 14 June from 31 May. Original comments were due by 21 May. If CIRB ruled on 15 June, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) would have to provide three days' notice to CN and CPKC before workers could strike. But a strike may still may not occur for another 60 days . If CIRB issues any orders, the parties would likely not be in a position for a strike or lockout to begin for two months, CPKC said on 16 May. TCRC members had authorized a strike to start as early as 22 May. The railroads and union met with CIRB on Monday and discussed the comments filed by groups that could be affected by a strike. Canadian minister of labour Seamus O'Regan asked CIRB earlier this month to consider requiring some rail service to continue in the event of a strike to help avoid health and safety issues related to propane supply. A number of concerns arising from the comments have been identified, with many focused on the impact to commercial and economic interests, CIRB said. The theme of certain comments concerned delivery of supplies of propane and diesel to critical areas, including and remote communities in northern British Columbia. Transportation also is important to the province of Manitoba which has been using rail to deliver fuel because of a Winnipeg products pipeline. Other comments focused on domestic and global food security. They noted some sectors are dependent on rail for transportation, such as fertilizer, potash and canola products, CIRB said. The potential, immediate impact on the supply of water treatment materials for several municipalities also was highlighted. Other commentators sought advance warning of strike, asking CIRB to provide notice of when a decision would be made or that there be an extension of the notice required before a strike or lockout. Negotiations between the railroads and TCRC continue. CN and the union will meet next week from 4-6 June. CPKC declined to comment on talks but met most recently with TCRC leadership between 15-21 May. By Abby Caplan Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Canadian rail workers vote to launch strike: Correction


24/05/02
24/05/02

Canadian rail workers vote to launch strike: Correction

Corrects movement of grain loadings from a year earlier in final paragraph. Washington, 2 May (Argus) — Workers at the two major Canadian railroads could go on strike as soon as 22 May now that members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) have authorized a strike, potentially causing widespread disruption to shipments of commodities such as crude, coal and grain. A strike could disrupt rail traffic not only in Canada but also in the US and Mexico because trains would not be able to leave, nor could shipments enter into Canada. This labor action could be far more impactful than recent strikes because it would affect Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) at the same time. Union members at Canadian railroads have gone on strike individually in the past, which has left one of the two carriers to continue operating and handle some of their competitor's freight. But TCRC members completed a vote yesterday about whether to initiate a strike action at each carrier. The union represents about 9,300 workers employed at the two railroads. Roughly 98pc of union members that participated voted in favor of a strike beginning as early as 22 May, the union said. The union said talks are at an impasse. "After six months of negotiations with both companies, we are no closer to reaching a settlement than when we first began, TCRC president Paul Boucher said. Boucher warned that "a simultaneous work stoppage at both CN and CPKC would disrupt supply chains on a scale Canada has likely never experienced." He added that the union does not want to provoke a rail crisis and wants to avoid a work stoppage. The union has argued that the railroads' proposals would harm safety practices. It has also sought an improved work-life balance. But CN and CPKC said the union continues to reject their proposals. CPKC "is committed to negotiating in good faith and responding to our employees' desire for higher pay and improved work-life balance, while respecting the best interests of all our railroaders, their families, our customers, and the North American economy." CN said it wants a contract that addresses the work life balance and productivity, benefiting the company and employees. But even when CN "proposed a solution that would not touch duty-rest rules, the union has rejected it," the railroad said. Canadian commodity volume has fallen this year with only rail shipments of chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, and non-metallic minerals rising, Association of American Railroads (AAR) data show. Volume data includes cars loaded in the US by Canadian carriers. Coal traffic dropped by 11pc during the 17 weeks ended on 27 April compared with a year earlier, AAR data show. Loadings of motor vehicles and parts have fallen by 5.2pc. CN and CPKC grain loadings fell by 4.3pc from a year earlier, while shipment of farm products and food fell by 9.3pc. By Abby Caplan Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

US southbound barge demand falls off earlier than usual


24/05/01
24/05/01

US southbound barge demand falls off earlier than usual

Houston, 1 May (Argus) — Southbound barge rates in the US have fallen on unseasonably low demand because of increased competition in the international grain market. Rates for voyages down river have deteriorated to "unsustainable" levels, said American Commercial Barge Line. Southbound rates declined in April to an average tariff of 284pc across all rivers this April, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is below breakeven levels for many barge carriers. Rates typically do not fall below a 300pc tariff until May or June. Southbound freight values for May are expected to hold steady or move lower, said sources this week. Southbound activity has increased recently because of the low rates, but not enough to push prices up. The US has already sold 84pc of its forecast corn exports and 89pc of forecast soybean exports with only five months left until the end of the corn and soybean marketing year, according to the USDA. US corn and soybean prices have come down since the beginning of the year in order to stay competitive with other origins. The USDA lowered its forecast for US soybean exports by 545,000t in its April report as soybeans from Brazil and Argentina were more competitively priced. US farmers are holding onto more of their harvest from last year because of low crop prices, curbing exports. Prompt CBOT corn futures averaged $435/bushel in April, down 34pc from April 2023. Weak southbound demand could last until fall when the US enters harvest season and exports ramp up southbound barge demand. Major agriculture-producing countries such as Argentina and Brazil are expected to export their grain harvest before the US. Brazil has finished planting corn on time . unlike last year. The US may face less competition from Brazil in the fall as a result. Carriers are tying up barges earlier than usual to avoid losses on southbound barge voyages. Carriers that have already parked their barges will take their time re-entering the market unless tariffs become profitable again. The carriers who remain on the river will gain more southbound market share and possibly more northbound spot interest. By Meghan Yoyotte and Eduardo Gonzalez Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

New US rule may let some shippers swap railroads


24/04/30
24/04/30

New US rule may let some shippers swap railroads

Washington, 30 April (Argus) — US rail regulators today issued a final rule designed to help customers switch railroads in cases of poor rail service, but it is already drawing mixed reviews. Reciprocal switching, which allows freight shippers or receivers captive to a single railroad to access to an alternate carrier, has been allowed under US Surface Transportation Board (STB) rules. But shippers had not used existing STB rules to petition for reciprocal switching in 35 years, prompting regulators to revise rules to encourage shippers to pursue switching while helping resolve service problems. "The rule adopted today has broken new ground in the effort to provide competitive options in an extraordinarily consolidated rail industry," said outgoing STB chairman Martin Oberman. The five-person board unanimously approved a rule that would allow the board to order a reciprocal switching agreement if a facility's rail service falls below specified levels. Orders would be for 3-5 years. "Given the repeated episodes of severe service deterioration in recent years, and the continuing impediments to robust and consistent rail service despite the recent improvements accomplished by Class I carriers, the board has chosen to focus on making reciprocal switching available to shippers who have suffered service problems over an extended period of time," Oberman said today. STB commissioner Robert Primus voted to approve the rule, but also said it did not go far enough. The rule adopted today is "unlikely to accomplish what the board set out to do" since it does not cover freight moving under contract, he said. "I am voting for the final rule because something is better than nothing," Primus said. But he said the rule also does nothing to address competition in the rail industry. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is reviewing the 154-page final rule, but carriers have been historically opposed to reciprocal switching proposals. "Railroads have been clear about the risks of expanded switching and the resulting slippery slope toward unjustified market intervention," AAR said. But the trade group was pleased that STB rejected "previous proposals that amounted to open access," which is a broad term for proposals that call for railroads to allow other carriers to operate over their tracks. The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association declined to comment but has indicated it does not expect the rule to have an appreciable impact on shortline traffic, service or operations. Today's rule has drawn mixed reactions from some shipper groups. The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), which filed its own reciprocal switching proposal in 2011, said it was encouraged by the collection of service metrics required under the rule. But "it is disheartened by its narrow scope as it does not appear to apply to the vast majority of freight rail traffic that moves under contracts or is subject to commodity exemptions," said NITL executive director Nancy O'Liddy, noting it was a departure from the group's original petition which sought switching as a way to facilitate railroad economic competitiveness. The Chlorine Institute said, in its initial analysis, that it does not "see significant benefit for our shipper members since it excludes contract traffic which covers the vast majority of chlorine and other relevant chemical shipments." By Abby Caplan Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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