Singapore — Worsening ice conditions at China's northern ports could disrupt shipping activity and cargo deliveries, at a time when the region is experiencing fuel shortages due to record low temperatures.
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"Owing to the recent low temperature in Northern China since the end of December 2020, the ice condition in Bohai and Huanghai sea area has been developing quickly," Oasis P&I Club said in a notification dated Jan. 8.
"According to the current forecast, in the following week (of Jan. 11), the ice condition will further develop, and the floating ice will reach 50 miles in Liaodong Bay, 10-15 miles in Bohai Bay and Laizhou Bay, and 10-20 miles in north Huanghai Sea," the notification said.
Oasis P&I said the northern Chinese ports such as Yingkou, Jinzhou, Huludao, Dandong, Qinhuangdao, Tangshan, Weifang and Dongying are subject to the ice conditions and vessels planning to call at these ports should follow precautions.
These precautions include draining the water in the deck piping system before the ship arrives to avoid cracking of the pipes, maintain safe speed when navigating in the ice area to minimize damage to the hull and checking for ice on anchor chains.
London P&I Club said its "members calling at ports in North China and any other ports that may be affected by ice should carry out appropriate risk assessment, including liaising with local agents, to ensure care of cargo and safety of the vessel."
"Suitable ice clauses should be included in the charter party wherever there is a possibility that a vessel may be directed to a port that may be ice-bound," it added.
In early January, LNG traders had attributed gas shortages in northern China and Japan to brief delays in ship arrivals as the vessels braved winter conditions. Loading delays were also reported for coal shipments in Russia.
At the start of the week, LNG shipping rates had spiked to record highs, with the Asia Pacific day rate at around $175,000/day and the Atlantics day rates hitting $300,000/day, up from less than $30,000/day in the summer of 2020.
"Cold weather, especially in China, is the key driver and this is being heightened by ongoing Panama Canal delays. The Panama Canal is experiencing significant congestion during the busiest part of the year, and this is leading to waiting periods for LNG carriers of 7-10 days or more," independent shipbroker Simpson Spence Young said in its 2021 outlook.
"The market will more than likely slide during March at the latest, when there is a significant amount of LNG new buildings that are delivering at the back-end of the first quarter," SSY said.
"New buildings will continue to deliver throughout Q2 and Q3, and ships also come off time charter during this period," it said, adding that overall the market projections are very bearish for Q2 and Q3 2021.