“Keeping up to date with the major international trends, be they political, economic or technological is essential – it’s a global business, now more than ever – and the decision making needs to be the same.”
Today Tank World News sits down with Peter Mackay, Editorial Director of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin and Day One Chairman of Tank World Expo that took place in Dubai in April. Peter has been with Hazardous Cargo Bulletin, a global magazine covering all kinds of dangerous goods but with a particular focus on liquid chemicals and liquefied gases, for over 20 years is an expert in its regulation and operation. He spent his early career with Drewry Shipping Consultants before moving on to industry journalism.
Luke Upton (LU): Hello Peter, with your experience there’s plenty that we could talk about today but perhaps we can start by looking at some of the key changes and trends that you are seeing emerge.
Pete Mackay (PM) : “Hi Luke, well, as always there is plenty going on, in fact we may not have been in such a period of flux since the 1970s. The USA is undergoing a huge change, with its accessing of domestic supplies of crude and its shift from being an importer of LNG to an exporter being nothing short of a revolution. With its own supply of oil it has in some ways disengaged from the global market in terms of pricing, to fill up your car is cheaper in the US than anywhere else in the world bar some of the Gulf states. But if the exports of US LNG and crude become more significant they will get plugged back into the global market and this is likely to have an effect on the domestic price. Let us not forget that in the US, the price of filling up the car is a major political issue!
We are also seeing some major developments in East Africa, although still some way to go before they begin to achieve their full potential. South Africa in particular has the potential to have a big impact on the supply chain and the Oiltanking Grindrod Calulo (OTGC) development at Port Elizabeth is a project worth keeping an eye on.
Asia too is seeing significant changes to the market. Just to take one example, Indonesia, which has gone from being the world’s largest LNG supplier to being an importer. With the upstream running down and the downstream ramping up where does that leave the existing infrastructure? Whilst Singapore is as busy, if not busier, than ever it opens up an opportunity for Malaysia to take business from suppliers keen to have their product turned round quicker.”
LU: Plenty to consider then, with such changes where does this leave Europe?
PM: “Not in a great position. It finds it hard to compete on anything anymore, the problems at Grangemouth in Scotland are just one recent example. With Europe not being able to supply itself with a lot of the resources it needs we have to ask where is the material going to come from? The obvious answer is the USA but it’s hard to firmly predict either way.”
LU: “And what about the Middle East?”
PM: “It’s an interesting time for the region and I’m looking forward to being at the heart of in Dubai in April at Tank World Expo. There’s a desire to go further downstream. And to develop further facilities to refine and manufacture of polymers. But it’s facing low price competition from the USA, and increasing refinery capacity from Asia and reduced capacity in Europe. The key there is striking a balance in what you are going to produce and ensuring that it can be brought to market effectively. Then there’s the question of what to keep for domestic use and what’s the best market for the rest? Different demands require different solutions and the producer has to be increasingly flexible or risk being left with a little in demand product and facility unable to deliver what the market is demanding.”
LU: Has the slow emergence of Iran from sanctions confused the picture in the Middle East further?
PM: “Yes, I think Iran has a very interesting position in all this. They have vast resources but their geography plays a huge role in the precise involvement in our industry. Most of the reserves are in the south but the majority of the population is in the north, often around mountainous terrain. So in a way this difficult terrain makes it easier for Iran to export from the south and import from Russia and the ‘Stans in the north. Plus Iran is, as it always has been, on good terms with China, and its growing tanker fleet offers another route to market. It’s hard to make some precise predictions but without a doubt the easing of sanctions and opening up of Iranian supplies to the market will change the dynamics of the region”
LU: Thanks, so shifting the focus from some of the broader strategic trends to some of the more technical ones. What are you seeing as a growing area of innovation?
PM: “For me the most interesting development is that of the growing use of wireless application within storage. The deployment of multiplatform systems offer huge potential for a smarter and more efficient management of tank farms. Being able to simply ‘plug-in’ and run a facility remotely from a central office could prove a huge advantage, particularly in difficult or remote terrain.”
LU: Interesting, you’ve been part of industry that has changed and continues to evolve in a number of ways. What do you think has been the biggest change you’ve seen?
PM: “Without a doubt, it’s safety. I am happy to say it has improved and continues to improve hugely. This has come about in a few different ways. Of course technology has developed to enable people to work more safely in hazardous areas. But also companies have seen the need to improve safety not just on a delivery level but also due to fears of the potential of environmental damage and public perception. A major accident can of course not only cause loss of life and disruption to supply but companies are increasingly aware of the damage it can do to their reputation, for example the damage suffered by BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 and to go even further back Dow Chemicals still suffers reputation damage from the Bhopal Disaster of 1984.”
LU: And just to conclude, our conversation has touched on a lot of different areas. If I were setting up a storage facility tomorrow, what advice would you give me?
PM: “Well, there’s lots that could be said. But to keep it simple, I would advise that timing is crucial for development, planning the right sort of facility offering a product that the market wants, and will continue to want is a route to success. I’d also say that you need to be flexible, the market is always changing and you will have to change accordingly. You may open a facility planning to store or refine one type of product but soon be doing something very different. Keeping up to date with the major international trends, be they political, economic or technological is essential – it’s a global business, now more than ever – and the decision making needs to be the same.”
Peter Mackay is Editorial Director of Hazardous Cargo Bulletin and was the Day One chairman of Tank World Expo 2014. Hazardous Cargo Bulletin is a media partner of Tank World Expo and to learn more about them visit www.hazardouscargo.com