SHANGHAI, Mar 16 (SMM) – The Philippines will ban vessels from entering Surigao del Norte from March 18 to the end of the month, growing concerns about nickel ore supply as the country is the world’s largest exporter of the raw material for stainless steel and nickel pig iron (NPI) following Indonesia’s export ban effective from this year.
The ban, which has been signed, is aimed at preventing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed 12 lives out of 140 confirmed infections in the Philippines.
Nickel ore mines and exporters including PGMC, TMC, HMC and ADNAMA in the northern part of Surigao, which is the major nickel ore producing region in the Philippines and produces nickel ore of good quality, will have to suspend shipments for two weeks on the back of the ban.
Exports of medium-grade nickel ore are expected to feel the impact, but the impact from the two-week ban is unexpected to be significant as the Surigao region is unlikely to shrug off impact from the wet season until at least April.
The entry ban will not cover the whole Surigao region such as Surigao del Sur, but uncertainty lingers as ships entering southern Surigao used to be inspected at the anchorage ground of Surigao del Norte.
China is the top importer of Philippine nickel ore, and its imports of nickel ore have been low so far this year as Indonesia banned exports from January and Surigao remained in the wet season. Inventories of nickel ore at Chinese NPI producers are expected to be depleted if the ban extends into April or spreads to other regions.
Chinese NPI producers have already been beleaguered by competition from Indonesian rivals, demand and supply imbalance and firm prices of nickel ore. They are set to face greater pressure if nickel ore imports from the Philippines dwindle sharply.