Between 2018 and 2023, the total volume of sea-based traded cementitious materials will reach almost 151 million tons, according to CW Research’s 2018 update of the World Cement, Clinker & Slag Sea-Based Trade Report.

The increasing trend represents an annual growth rate of over one percent, and is likely to be driven in particular by growing demand for clinker in limestone-scarce markets that are constantly increasing grinding capacity, and supply chain optimization efforts.

“The decline in China’s gray cement exports and slower demand in some importing markets, along with self-sufficiency in other markets, have hindered cementitious trade volumes in 2017”, notes Tea Vukicevic, CW Group’s Associate Analyst. “However, as of the beginning of this year, more than fifty new vessels have been added as a response to solid demand in Asia and a turnaround in the market and investors’ confidence.”

Clinker to replace cement as most traded cementitious commodity by sea

More than 139 million tons of cementitious materials were traded by sea-going vessels in 2017, a decrease of 6.4 percent compared to the 149.4 million tons shipped in 2016. This contraction was mainly caused by even stricter Chinese cement and clinker rationalization efforts, combined with increasing cement capacity and self-sufficiency of many developing markets, namely East African ones.

At the global level, gray cement continued to be the most traded cementitious commodity by sea in 2017, making for almost half of the sea-based cementitious trade. Clinker (including both white and gray), accounted for 35 percent of total seaborne cementitious trade in 2017.

“Looking onwards, Asia Pacific will remain the most dynamic route, trading mostly inter-regionally as well as regionally, and supplying clinker – which is expected to be the lead trading cementitious material by 2023”, observes Tea Vukicevic.

Limestone scarcity in developing markets and environmental regulations regarding limestone burning in already developed ones are going to boost the clinker sea-based trade.

Asia leading new cement carrier additions

There are currently more than 360 cement carriers used for seaborne distribution of cementitious materials, with an average age of 27 years. Solid demand in Asia has contributed to a turnaround in the market and investors’ confidence, and interest in new vessels and conversions has been increasing. Therefore, the majority of the newly added vessels found their place in markets such as Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, etc.

When looking at market shares of large cement companies by cargos moved, LafargeHolcim, HC Trading and Cemex control almost 30 percent of the market, while the two largest Asian cement traders, Taiheyo and Tong Yang Cement, account for around 11 percent of the market.

At the global level, there are almost 800 cement terminals, more than 130 waterside grinding plants (slag and clinker), and almost 150 waterside integrated cement plants. Most of the cement terminals at the global level are located in Far East Asia, followed by Europe, specifically Western Europe.


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