The new coronavirus which has been causing a sensation since the end of last year (2019) is likely to affect the industrial gas business, the Gas Review reports.
Wuhan, China where the new virus originated is a large industrial city with more than 10 million citizens. The city is famous for the automobile industries into which many Japanese companies have advanced and recently the electronics industry is also growing remarkably – as seen in the ongoing large-scale investments in the city to Yangtze Memory Technologies (YMTC), BOE Technology and China Star.
Japanese gas manufacturers are also selling gases for the city. Iwatani’s local subsidiary Wuhan Iwatani Commercial Trade has a business base in the city and Showa Denko’s local corporation Shanghai Showa Chemicals has also a branch office in the city. To store and distribute gases, both of the local companies use on lease the warehouse from Wuhan Hengjidaxin International Chemical Storage Co. Ltd. located inside the Wuhan Chemical Industry Complex.
The other specialty gas manufacturers which have no local warehouse seem to distribute gases from Shanghai to the city by long-distance transportation. It is feared that the supply of gases may be cut if the new coronavirus problem at this time is prolonged.
Incidentally, as the virus trouble rose fully in progress during the Lunar New Year (Spring Festival), many local companies stopped their business activities but the electronics companies like YMTC continued their operation with a decreased workforce.
The Gas Review reports the continuation was because restarting operations of the semiconductor or LCD lines would take a great deal of time once they had stopped. It seems no shortage will occur for the time being, but there will be a problem after then.
On 27th January, the Government of China announced to extend the Lunar New year Holiday until 2nd February instead of 30th January. Furthermore, the Shanghai Municipal Government noticed to the companies in the city to take measures to extend non-operation days up to 9th February.
It has affected the unloading schedule at the Port of Shanghai, causing the cancellation of scheduled sailing of a ship loaded with specialty gases for export from Japan. There are lots of problems also in the logistics field because of the Hubei Province blocked the entrances and toll-gate of highways in the province.
In the central area of Wuhan City, all the traffic of ordinary vehicles has been banned. Although some limited part of the traffic is allowed, the local transport companies have already tended to reject a transportation order for the city of Wuhan. There seems to be no way to avoid influences to the logistics of gases.
Iwatani and SDK are taking safety measures for their employees. Wuhan Iwatani Commercial Trade has directed one employee to return to Japan temporarily. Shanghai Showa Chemicals Wuhan Branch having no Japanese staff members, has prohibited the local staff members to commute to the office.
As the case coincided with the Spring Festival season, the influence seems to have stayed the lowest limit, but the patients have spread to all provinces and autonomous regions over China.
On 30th January, SEMI announced it would not hold SEMICON Korea, scheduled to be open from 5th to 7th February, on the grounds of possible spread of the infection.
The Gas Review, issue no. 479