China's push to improve the environmental performance of its industries has now shifted focus towards the sulphur market which is another example of the "red dragon going green". Nantong port on the Yangtze river will ban the imports of all solid sulphur. The decision is intended to limit pollution to the nearby residential population of Nantong. Bulk crushed lump sulphur imports have been restricted to all Yangtze river ports since Q2 2018 with the product now only accepted in jumbo bags. The processing of molten sulphur to solid at sites along the Yangtze is also restricted.
The focus on the environmental performance of Nantong Port on the Yangtze River began in 2016 during inspections carried out by the Ministry of Ecology & Environment (MEE). The inspections identified that the sulphur storage site had caused pollution as waste water had been pumped directly into the river. The port's water discharge is located only 1.8 km from Nantong city's main water intake which was a major factor in the MEE's decision to end sulphur trade to the port.
From October 2018, the port of Nantong will cease imports of sulphur and begin the process of selling off remaining port stocks. There is currently no official timeline for stock drawdown at the port but CRU expects that most of the current volume will be sold into the market in Q4 2018.
Yangtze river ports increase sulphur import share
China imports a mix of molten, granular and crushed lump sulphur, with Yangtze ports receiving all these product classes. The new import restrictions are aimed at limiting the environmental impact of dust, which is generated in the unloading or processing of sulphur. Yangtze River ports accounted for 53% of all Chinese sulphur imports in 2017 with the Nanjing port district, which includes Nantong and Zhenjiang, the major point of arrival in China.
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