@tco’s first general meeting in Shanghai attracted a bigger crowd than expected, indicating a thirst for knowledge among Chinese and Asian tank container users
This past August marked a watershed in the use of tank containers in Asia, when Bertschi shipped a consignment in tank containers carrying Class 8 corrosives all the way from Antwerp to Shanghai by rail. The shipment was the result of 2.5 years of work by Bertschi and its client and partners in the project – Hupac, Russian rail operator Troyka and China-based GT Eurasia Transport.
In preparation for further development of the Eurasia Land Bridge concept, Bertschi will open its own office in Shanghai on January 1, 2012; the Switzerland-based company has also already become a member of the Asian Tank Container Organisation (@tco), which is aiming to help promote the safe handling and use of tank containers in Asia and, in particular, in China.
The key to developing the tank container in China is being allowed to move tanks by rail into the Chinese hinterland, to replace the use of drums. There are, though, some stumbling blocks that are hindering greater uptake of the tank container concept in the region. One of these is the relative lack of container depots to handle repairs and cleaning. Some of the companies that have pioneered the concept of tank containers in China have had to go as far as setting up their own depots to ensure that capacity is available and quality is good.
@tco held its first general meeting in Shanghai last month. Reg Lee, the Organisation’s president, says he was expecting around 40 people to attend, so was pleased that 65 turned up. It says something for the inroads that the tank container has made into the Chinese and Asian marketplace that the area of greatest interest for users is the provision of – and quality of – tank container cleaning and repair depots in the region.
A major initiative by @tco is the development of a depot audit system, which is being welcomed by chemical producers looking for an assurance that their consignments are going to be carried in tanks that have been prepared to the highest standard. During the event, @tco presented its first plaque to William Loh, managing director of Kerry-ITS, after its Singapore depot was the first to be successfully audited under the scheme. Graham Wood, @tco’s technical director, has since then received many questions about the scheme from chemical shippers and requests for details of the depots that have been audited or have applied to join the scheme.
As if illustration were needed of the situation regarding depots in China, a worker was killed at the Sinotank Container Services depot in Tianjin on November 9. A rapid investigation did not determine the cause and Sinotank has not made an official comment; however, local sources suggest that an incompatible detergent was being used to clean out a dirty tank, causing an explosion that killed the worker on top of the tank. Sinotank is the largest depot in China and handles tanks for many of the world’s major operators.
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Other elements of the day’s events were more surprising. Lee says that a delegate from China Rail Logistic attended; the company has built up a fleet of 1,200 tank containers and has another 600 on order for 2012 delivery. It has not yet joined @tco but, if it does, it will be a very useful way into the Chinese rail sector for the Organisation and would help open up the market for new customers. At present, thirdparty tank containers may only be carried by rail in China after registration prior to each trip; Lee says this is unlikely to change before a new Minister of Rail is appointed next year, after the current incumbent was replaced this past April.
Following the meeting, Lee and Wood made a presentation to the Association of International Chemical Manufacturers (AICM) as a further step towards broadening awareness of the Organisation’s activities and fostering understanding of what customers require from their Asian tank container suppliers. These activities are continuing, and @tco is also planning to hold another meeting in Singapore, during March or April 2012.
Published with permission of HCB Publications Ltd