The extreme danagers of the nickel ore trade, where liquefaction of the cargo can cause a vessel to sink in a matter of minutes are well known, but enforcing regulations on this valuable business has proved difficult in remote mining and loading locations.
One is reminded that the DHL advert where goat farmers in a remote mountainsare shown as the start of a global supply chain for cashmere sweaters, but the reality of the nickel ore trade from the southern Philippines, mainly for export to China, is a far grittier one that would challenge even the most creative advertising agency.
This is despite nickel ore being a key compoment in one of the key green technologies – rechargable batteries. Although its largest use is in stainless steel.
In what is a multi-billion trade there might be an expectation of sophiscated loading facilities with purpose built wharves and conveyors. But as Andrew Malpas, president and gm, of P&I Correspodent Pandiman Philipppines, explains the reality is a very different picture, something more akin to the “wild west”.
The mining and trade in the Philippines is centred around Surigao in northen Mindanao, a region currently under Marshall Law due to the long running Islamic insurgency in the region, which has worsened with the influence of ISIS. Marshall Law can make just visting the area difficult with foreign government travel warnings meaning travel insurance policies are not valid.