Around 200 delegates from 13 countries attended the 2015 ASEAN Iron and Steel Sustainability Forum which was held at Hotel Istana in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 30 November to 2 December 2015. This was a record turnout for the year-end event of the Institute since it was first organised in 2008.
In his opening address, Mr. Roberto Cola, Chairman of SEAISI, noted that the systemic overcapacity of the global steel industry has resulted in the influx of low priced steel products in the region, particularly from China. He, therefore, stressed that it is imperative for the ASEAN steel manufacturers to find ways to differentiate and add value to their products as they still enjoy the advantage of local relationships and proximity to their customers. He also reminded the steel players in the region that while they are preoccupied with the challenges presented by the prevailing market situation, they should not loose sight of the bigger and more serious problem of climate change. In this regard, he announced that SEAISI has completed the ASEAN Steel Industry Energy and Green House Gas (GHG) Intensity Benchmarking project which could now be used by its members.
Dato’ Soh Thian Lai, President of the Malaysian Iron & Steel Industry Federation (MISIF), in his welcoming speech, lamented the sorry state of the iron and steel industry in Malaysia and in the region due to the intense competition from cheap imports, particularly from China. He urged all stakeholders to be more self-reliant and to undertake effective measures of their own to address this very challenging situation. He also stressed on the need to further promote and enhance the usage of domestically produced iron and steel products through the adoption of Industrialised Building Systems (IBS) and the enforcement of “Buy Local Products First” policy.
The keynote speaker was Tan Sri Dr. Ahmad Tajuddin Ali, Chairman of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) of Malaysia. In his speech, Tan Sri Dr. Tajuddin highlighted the significant contribution of the construction sector to the Malaysian economy and mentioned that the sector is expected to continue to register double-digit growth in 2016. He also elaborated on the newly launched Construction Industry Transformation Programme (CITP) which seeks to transform the Malaysian construction industry through specific initiatives under four strategic thrusts i.e. quality, safety and professionalism; environmental sustainability; productivity; and internationalism.
In the session on “Steel Market Developments”, I presented a report on the steel situation in ASEAN. Steel Consumption in ASEAN continued to expand in the first half of 2015, surging 8.9% year-on-year to 35.12 million tonnes. The increase in steel demand in ASEAN, however, did not benefit the steel producers in the region which saw their production of hot rolled steel products dropping 6.3% year-on-year to 14.03 million tonnes over the same period. Imports, on the other hand, rose 18.7% on the year to 25.75 million tonnes, with China accounting for half of the overall imports.
My colleague, Ms. Pichsini Tepa-Apirak, then made a presentation on “Construction Sector and the ASEAN Steel Industry” which highlighted the importance of the construction sector as the biggest steel consuming sector in ASEAN. The presentation also provided information on the features of the construction industry in the six ASEAN member countries of SEAISI as well as examples of the institutional set ups in Japan and Singapore to promote and regulate their respective construction sector.
In the same session, Mr. Paul Bartholomew of Platts shared with the delegates his thoughts on steel raw materials. With the Chinese steel demand peaking and showing signs of decline, Mr. Bartholomew was of the view that it would be a tougher market for iron ore and metallurgical coal. He foresaw intense competition between the iron ore producers with more supply going into a receding market. The BF/BOF steelmakers will continue to benefit from the low iron ore prices while the situation would be tougher for the EAF producers. While India might offer hopes for metallurgical coal, he cautioned that developments in the country could be hampered by issues of land access, red tape, decrepit infrastructure and tariffs.
The highlight of the presentations that followed must surely be in the three special sessions devoted to the construction sector. The sessions - Construction Management and Sustainability; Smart Systems for Steel Construction; and Steel Material and Innovative Product Developments – featured a total of 15 papers presented by speakers from Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. Delegates to the Forum were updated on the latest building and construction technologies and systems as well as steel material and product developments for the construction sector in the five countries mentioned. There was also active participation from the floor with many delegates seeking clarification and further information from the speakers on specific areas of interest.
The other sessions in the forum were centred on environmental and safety issues. The sessions were Waste Management, Energy Savings, Emissions Control and Operation Management for Environmental & Safety Improvement.
The site tour after the forum attracted some 40 participants who were taken to visit the facilities of the Construction Research Institute of Malaysia (CREAM) and the Industrialised Building System (IBS) Centre of CIDB as well as the manufacturing plant of Southern Steel Mesh Sdn. Bhd.
All in all, the forum was a resounding success. The Institute would like to thank MISIF for co-hosting the forum and CIBD for its support of the event. Our special thanks also go to all the speakers, chairpersons, delegates and the hosts of the site tour for your great support and participation.
TAN AH YONG