The Role Of Singapore & Ulsan In The Liquid Bulk Chemical Sector

Both Singapore and South Korea are two large petrochemical producers with a strategic location in Asia offering access to tank storage capacity, a large tanker fleet, and a wide range of logistics services. They both have a vital hub function in the liquid bulk chemical industry, Singapore in South East Asia and Ulsan in North East Asia. According to, Singapore has a total tank storage capacity of 15.7 million cbm, while Ulsan has a total capacity of 10.2 million cbm of which around 66 percent is from SK Energy.

This article is written by Rudi Stalmans and featured in the 2019 summer edition of Tank News International.

Singapore vs Ulsan in the liquid bulk chemical sector

Singapore has historically been the largest provider of tank capacity in South East Asia and has roughly tripled its capacity since 2005. Especially between 2008 and 2010 the pace of growth was high. After 2011 market circumstances were less favourable for tank terminals in the region. Capacity was still added after this date since construction had already begun at many expansion projects. Both tank terminal capacity and gross trade volumes in Singapore have increased substantially since 2009, with tank terminal capacity growing at an even greater pace than the trade volumes. However near-future tank terminal expansions in Singapore are only minor. The Singapore tank storage industry has a good mix of both local and international tank terminal operators with seven players having the capability to handle chemical products. The country also headquarters many of the world’s largest parcel tanker owners. Its tank storage capacity, the availability of an international fleet and favourable weather conditions make Singapore an ideal location. Its good port infrastructure and low chance of port closures also decrease the risk of demurrage, which is often a forgotten cost in the supply chain. The fact that Singapore is a large container port gives it another advantage over its neighbours.

South Korea, on the other hand, is the 5th largest country in terms of global chemical sales. Ulsan with its large petroleum and petrochemical base is also pushing forward its North East Asia Oil Hub to meet increasing demand in the region. Once the project is fully completed by 2026, it will vastly increase Ulsan’s liquid tank storage capacity. Ulsan Main Port is the hub’s core supported by Onsan Port and Ulsan New Port, which will house the new Oil Hub. The Korean operators are often local companies, but there are some large international players such as Odfjell, Vopak and Stolt. The latter’s JV Jeongil Stolthaven Ulsan is one of the largest independent liquid bulk tank terminals in Asia. Eleven players in Ulsan can handle chemical products. Another advantage of Ulsan is that South Korea has a large commercial chemical tanker fleet flying the South Korean flag for transhipment activities and regional distribution. The weather is not as favourable as in Singapore, but demurrage risk on large vessels calling Ulsan tends to be low.

Continue to read part 2 of this article – The Future of Asia’s Leading Transhipment Hubs.

Photo Credit: Canva