A digital future

TNI Petrochemical Supplement: A Digital Future


The petrochemical industry has ridden high on emerging market demand growth and location has been the key to success. As the industry gains momentum, companies look to build on their core capabilities and strategy in order to tap into markets that are on the up. TNI talks to Hans-Jörg Bertschi, Executive Chairman of Bertschi Group to learn more.

“As a result of the strong economic developments and positive business cycle over the last six years, we are seeing a significant growth in the global movement of petrochemicals,” says Hans-Jörg. 

He notes there has been typically double-digit growth over the last six to seven years in the global business in which Bertschi is active. “In Europe, growth rates are more modest at two to three percent, which corresponds to market growth.

“The petrochemical industry has growth at a higher rate than GDP over the last few years. It is usually one to two percent above GDP growth, which is quite healthy,” he says.

This growth has made an impact on Bertschi’s decisions on where to focus its efforts. The company is focussing efforts on expanding its offerings across Asia, in particular China and Southeast Asia. It has also had significant growth in the U.S. based off the shale gas investments of the petrochemical and chemical industries in the Gulf. “These are our major growth areas,” states Hans-Jörg.

The company also made its move in South America, which has seen some growth as well, with the opening of its subsidiary, Bertschi Santos.

Digitalisation

There are a wide range of different tank containers for specific products. There are a certain number of standardised containers for large-volume chemicals and a mix of specialised tanks and standard tanks.

In its global business, Bertschi focuses primarily on standardised tank services than in its European business, where the portfolio for speciality shipments that require specific tanks is larger.

“We are working a lot on developing the ‘smart tank container’ concept which will allow better supply chain visibility, allow the control of temperatures within the tank, and allow the control of tank pressure whilst the tank is in transit,” explains Hans-Jörg. “It is essentially a global communication network and digitalisation of our global and European offering is a major investment area for Bertschi.”

Looking ahead

The company is relatively optimistic about the economic development from the U.S. as it is very strong with positive growth. “The business areas we operate in continue to grow in Europe and in Asia. There is positive momentum in the world economy which we will expect to continue in 2019,” says Hans-Jörg. As a result, the company is continuing to invest “significantly” in its capacity for 2019 in order to support its core customers.

Hans-Jörg notes there have been several shifts regarding the use of tank containers. One being the shift of customers away from drums and IBCs to tank containers. This is primarily due to tank containers being a safer method of transporting products in terms of sustainability and potential damage to the environments.

“The second shift we are able to see is from parcel tanks to tank containers. Many small to medium sized lots are still transported in product tankers, but now, as container vessels have capacities of more than 20,000 containers, it can be more cost-effective to send product door-to-door by tank containers,” notes Hans-Jörg. This shift is not seen for large volume flows.

Furthermore, the company doesn’t see the current trade disputes between the U.S. and China and the subsequent chemical duties having too much of a negative impact on global volume flows of petrochemicals. “It will only redirect certain flows around the global, but overall demand will not suffer as a result of the disputes,” he says.

Expansion plans

The company is planning to expand its business unit solutions capacity in terms of drumming and warehousing in Southeast Asia and in approximately one year, also in China. 

It also plans to “significantly” expand its global ISO tank fleet for 2019 by a currently undisclosed amount. Bertschi will also open two more sites in China during 2019, however, the locations have not been disclosed at present.

Bertschi is a global player in the petrochemical logistics sector, with in total over 70 subsidiaries in 38 countries, covering all continents. Bertschi has a fleet of 33,000 tank and silo containers, 1,100 trucks and 30 container terminals. The company is market leader in Europe for the intermodal transportation of chemicals by rail, road and shipping, and one of the global leading providers of tank container transportation and supplementary value-added logistic services for the chemical industry. Major Bertschi subsidiaries outside Europe are located in Shanghai, Singapore, Houston, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Dubai, Al-Jubail and Istanbul.

The company has four different business units: Two European units that focus on European chemicals, petrochemicals, plastics and distribution; two global units that focus on worldwide coverage of its ISO tanks and a business unit solution focusing on value-added services such as drumming, packing and warehousing.

For more information visit www.bertschi.com

11th December 2018

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