The LPG shipping market has experienced considerable growth this year, with global exports growing by 3.8% from January to October. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “global LPG (liquified petroleum gas) trade was very disappointing in 2021, owing to the economic impact from COVID-19. Total seaborne exports of LPG in 2021 declined by -4.5% year-on-year to 135.6 mln tonnes (excluding cabotage), according to vessel tracking data from Refinitiv. In the first 10 month of 2022, things turned around pretty strongly. In the period of January to October 2022, global LPG exports increased by +3.8% y-o-y to 116.7 mln tonnes, up from 112.4 mln tonnes in the same period last year.
According to Banchero Costa, “exports from the Middle East surged by +22.3% y-o-y in Jan-Oct 2022 to 35.7 mln tonnes. From the United States, volumes increased by +9.7% y-o-y to 43.0 mln tonnes in the same period. From the rest of the world supply declined this year. From the North Sea (Norway+UK) exports were down by -24.2% y-o-y, from North Africa it’s been -7.6% yo-y, from West Africa -3.5% y-o-y, from ASEAN -19.1% y-o-y. Demand this year has been generally positive everywhere except for Mainland China. In Jan-Oct 2022, LPG imports to India increased a very healthy +12.0% y-oy to 15.6 mln tonnes. Imports to Japan also surged by +9.3% y-o-y to 8.8 mln tonnes in the same period. Imports to South Korea in Jan-Oct 2022 also managed to increase significantly. Korea imported 7.6 mln tonnes of seaborne LPG, which was a +13.1% increase y-o-y”.
“On the other hand, Mainland China performed poorly in Jan-Oct 2022, with LPG imports falling by -2.3% y-o-y to 20.4 mln tonnes. The European Union (27) imported 21.0 mln tonnes of seaborne LPG in the whole of 2022 (excluding national cabotage), which was a very disappointing -6.2% y-o-y decline. As such, the EU was overtaken last year by China as the world’s top importer of LPG. In 2021, the EU still accounted for 15.6% of global LPG imports, behind China’s 17.9%, but ahead of India with 12.9% and Japan with 7.1%. So far in 2022, things have turned around. In the first 10 months of 2022, the EU imported 18.2 mln tonnes of LPG, which was a +5.5% yo-y increase from 17.2 mln t in the same period of last year. The EU remains the second top importer after China also this year”, Banchero Costa noted.
The shipbroker said that “the main source of LPG for Europe is the USA, which accounts for 33.5% of European imports. In the first 10 months of 2022, LPG imports from the USA to the EU surged by +54.8% y-o-y to 6.1 mln t. A further 21.4% of the EU’s seaborne imports were sourced from other EU countries. This amounted to 3.9 mln tonnes in Jan-Oct 2022, up +4.8% y-o-y. Other suppliers of LPG to the EU include Algeria with 2.7 mln tonnes in Jan-Oct 2022, -11.7% y-o-y. Lower volumes come from Norway with 2.2 mln tonnes, -27.4% y-o-y. Further down the list is the United Kingdom with 1.3 mln tonnes shipped to the EU in Jan-Oct 2022, down -23.5% y-o-y. Volumes from Russia, surprisingly, increased in Jan-Oct 2022 to 0.6 mln tonnes, up +30.2% y-o-y. The European Union is also an exporter of LPG. In Jan-Oct 2022, a total of 6.4 mln tonnes of LPG were loaded in EU ports (excluding national cabotage). This included 3.8 mln tonnes shipped to other EU countries, +2.6% y-o-y, with much of the rest going to Mediterranean destinations such as Morocco, Turkey and Albania. Given the large share of crossEuropean trade and import volumes from short haul sources such as Norway, Russia and North Africa, it is not surprising that European LPG shipping uses often smaller sized tonnage. Out of the 18.2 mln tonnes imported into the EU in Jan-Oct 2022, only 26% (4.7 mln t) were carried on VLGCs, 32% (5.8 mln t) were carried on medium size tonnage, and 42% (7.7 mln t) on small size tonnage”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide