German steel shipment disruptions intensify; Thyssenkrupp declares FM

Disruption of steel shipments due to the intense flooding in Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr region has further intensified logistics issues for that country’s steel businesses, with Thyssenkrupp the latest declaring force majeure and market sources July 19 citing transport disruptions.

“There are problems everywhere,” said a mill source. “The DB Cargo main railhead is in Hagen. Barges can’t go [on the Meuse River] because of the high water. Parts of the railway are missing. Trucks were difficult to get; now it’s even worse.”

In comments to S&P Global Platts, a Thyssenkrupp spokesman said July 19: “We have to wait to see how the situation develops on the logistics side.”

The steelmaker declared force majeure on July 16, according to a letter to customers, saying it was unable to deliver pre-material between the company’s sites. Steel deliveries to customers are also disrupted, it said.

“Length and scale of the disruption and the effects are not known at this point,” the company said in the letter.

Thyssenkrupp is the biggest steelmaker in Germany, shipping 2.7 million mt of hot- and cold-rolled material between January-March of this year. The company’s biggest site is in Duisburg, at the junction of the Rhine and Ruhr, with several processing sites in the area. Barge shipments of raw materials on the Rhine are not affected by the floods, the spokesman said.

An ArcelorMittal spokesman, meanwhile, told Platts July 19 that logistics are hampered at several locations but that production would be running “near normal.”

One of ArcelorMittal Germany’s main sites is also in Duisburg.

Germany’s biggest stockholder, Kloeckner, has previously said it has not been affected by the floods and delivery delays, and that subsidiary Becker Stahl did not have any “noteworthy” problems.

Cold-roller Bilstein, based in Hagen, declared force majeure July 14 following the flooding of its production facilities as well as closed railway lines used to receive material to process.

Although market participants said the current backlog in order books at mills and the ongoing shipment delays since last year are expected to intensify material tightness, spot prices have not been affected.

The daily Platts assessment for HRC stood at Eur1,170/mt EXW Ruhr July 19, slightly up by Eur4/mt on-day but plateauing overall for some weeks following rapid price rises on material tightness earlier in the year to all-time highs at Eur1,190/mt EXW Ruhr recorded in June. Prices were at its lowest ever recorded in June last year at Eur396.50/mt EXW Ruhr after demand collapsed during the first wave of the pandemic.

The floods came at a time when the market started to quieten down for the summer with little spot buying activity. Some sources believe the intensified delays in shipments could bring some upward pressure to prices once the market will be back from the summer holiday in early September.

— Laura Varriale