Following significant investments to modernise operations – and continued efforts to enhance its safety performance and capabilities – Vesta Terminals is fully aligned to meet market demands
Fluctuating European market dynamics have created a range of opportunities and challenges – but Vesta Terminals’ facilities have thrived as a result of its flexible and agile business model.
The company, which has three facilities spread across Northern Europe totalling more than 1.6 million m3 of storage, benefits from operating in two historically strong trading and storage markets – the ARA and the Baltics.
Antwerp and Flushing in the ARA, where the company is present, are part of one of the most active trading hubs in the world; combining production, mismatches in supply and demand, a large hinterland and strong logistics.
Since first purchasing the Antwerp terminal seven years ago, Mercuria Energy Trading, one of the world’s largest independent energy and commodity groups, invested heavily in safety and upgrading the facility, channelling many millions into modernisation programmes. This upgrade continued when Mercuria entered into a 50/50 joint venture agreement for Vesta Terminals with Sinomart, an indirect subsidiary of Sinopec Kantons, one of the worlds’ largest energy companies.
In an interview with Tank Storage Magazine, Martijn Notten, CEO of Vesta Terminals, explains that operating terminals nowadays places a greater emphasis on having flexible operations in combination with an excellent performance record.
Until recently the market has been strong thanks to the contango structure, which is good for overall storage dynamics. It combined all the favourable storage and trading factors.
Notten says: ‘There are multiple hubs around the world, but the ARA region is an interesting one because there is the option to either sell products to local markets or (re-) export them. This creates a lot of opportunities for global players.’
He says that the contango in some of the key products that Vesta Terminals stores and handles has essentially ‘eliminated’ part of the cost of storage for customers.
‘Over the past three years I cannot imagine anyone having any spare oil capacity in the ARA,’ says Notten. ‘But a lot of new storage capacity has also been added recently and now, with a market in backwardation, this is challenging.’
Tank terminal operators are also indirectly impacted by recent trends in the energy markets such as the OPEC production cut, further consolidation of European refineries with changing product flows and patterns and the effects inclement weather circumstances such as the recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
These trends have shaped the company’s core operating principles to ensure maximum flexibility.
‘In general these kind of events cause disruption to the market but for those that take the right position or have the flexibility, to change stored product for instance, it does offer opportunities,’ says Michiel Flier, managing director of the Antwerp and Flushing terminals.
‘As a terminal company you should be agile and flexible enough to cope with these global events.
‘We have a very flexible terminal in Antwerp and as such we are better prepared to help our customers make money out of these events where possible.’
Vesta Terminals management’s ethos is that a good performing company starts with happy and motivated employees.
Flier adds: ‘By also offering a high quality and safety standards, in combination with a pro-active service and with flexibility for our customers to adapt to different market circumstances, we aim to build long term relationships.’
EXPANSION WITH A TWIST
To accommodate demand from its growing customer base, the company is also exploring the possibility of enhancing infrastructure at its Antwerp Terminal.
Notten says that a final decision on expansion is expected in the coming months.
However, this is not a typical expansion project. Instead of adding more storage, the company is looking to demolish parts of its current infrastructure and will replace it with larger tanks. This process will contribute an extra 105,000 m3 of capacity. The project includes two additional barge berths to ensure the continuation of an excellent performance in turn-around times.
Once confirmed, construction works are expected to start in the second quarter of 2018, with the new infrastructure ready in 2019.
Flier explains: ‘This is an optimisation of our existing terminal by replacing older infrastructure, which is commercially not aligned with customer requirements and by adding new barge berths to ensure a good turnaround performance alongside our jetties.’
The company also continues to develop its terminal in the Baltics as a result of altered trade flows.
Previously, the Vesta Tallinn facility was a strong and well located trading terminal for the export of mainly crude and fuel oil. However these flows have changed significantly and as such the function of the terminal has also changed.
Notten says: ‘We have become a more diversified terminal. We have converted some of the tanks for the storage and handling of middle distillates, jet fuel and petrol (components) and in doing so we are more flexible and agile.
‘We have a strong ambition to continue developing our existing terminal locations and grow our company to meet the demands of our expanding customer whilst maintaining an excellent safety track record.
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