Top supplier Malaysia sees no quick end to shortages in $8bn gloves industry

A couple wearing face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic attend their wedding ceremony at a mosque in Banda Aceh. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 05 June 2020

Top supplier Malaysia sees no quick end to shortages in $8bn gloves industry

  • The global disposable gloves market was valued at $7.6 billion last year and is expected to reach $11.8 billion by 2025

KUALA LUMPUR: A global shortage of medical gloves due to a coronavirus-driven surge in demand will carry over into next year, Malaysia, the world’s biggest gloves supplier, said on Thursday, warning buyers to be wary of scammers promising quick supplies.

World consumption of the personal protective equipment is estimated to jump more than 11 percent to 330 billion pieces this year, two thirds of which are likely to be supplied by Malaysia, its rubber glove manufacturers association (MARGMA) said.

It recently received more than a dozen reports of frauds and fake agents claiming to represent member companies for glove supplies. Counterfeit company letters were produced to appoint bogus agents or potential customers were quoted “ridiculous” prices with a promise to cut short delivery time.

“Buyers are reminded that while glove prices have soared and demand is overwhelming, the industry’s supply is being fully booked until early next year,” MARGMA President Denis Low said in a statement.

“MARGMA foresees the shortage of gloves due to overwhelming demand this year to spill into 2021.”

The global disposable gloves market was valued at $7.6 billion last year and is expected to reach $11.8 billion by 2025, according to VynZ Research.

MARGMA, whose members include top-two players Top Glove Corp. and Supermax Corp, also said worker safety and welfare were being monitored “critically” as pressure increases to step up production.

Last week, a group of European politicians urged the European Union trade commissioner to make sure higher demand does not become an excuse for exploiting workers, who come mainly from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal.

The US in March lifted a ban on imports from Malaysian glove maker WRP Asia Pacific after accusing it of using forced labor.

Developed economies, home to only a fifth of the world’s population, account for nearly 70 percent glove demand due to their stringent medical standards. 


Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

Updated 16 July 2020

Tanker off UAE sought by US over Iran sanctions ‘hijacked’

  • The circumstances of the hijack are still unclear and the boat has been tracked to Iranian waters

DUBAI: An oil tanker sought by the US over allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran was hijacked on July 5 off the coast of the UAE, a seafarers organization said Wednesday.

Satellite photos showed the vessel in Iranian waters on Tuesday and two of its sailors remained in the Iranian capital.

It wasn’t immediately clear what happened aboard the Dominica-flagged MT Gulf Sky, though its reported hijacking comes after months of tensions between Iran and the US

David Hammond, the CEO of the United Kingdom-based group Human Rights at Sea, said he took a witness statement from the captain of the MT Gulf Sky, confirming the ship had been hijacked.

Hammond said that 26 of the Indian sailors on board had made it back to India, while two remained in Tehran, without elaborating.

“We are delighted to hear that the crew are safe and well, which has been our fundamental concern from the outset,” Hammond told The Associated Press.

Hammond said that he had no other details about the vessel.

TankerTrackers.com, a website tracking the oil trade at sea, said it saw the vessel in satellite photos on Tuesday in Iranian waters off Hormuz Island. 

Hormuz Island, near the port city of Bandar Abbas, is some 190 kilometers (120 miles) north of Khorfakkan, a city on the eastern coast of the United Arab Emirates where the vessel had been for months.

The Emirati government, the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet did not respond to requests for comment. Iranian state media did not immediately report on the vessel and Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the US Justice Department filed criminal charges against two Iranians, accusing them of trying to launder some $12 million to purchase the tanker, at that time named the MT Nautica, through a series of front companies. 

The vessel then took on Iranian oil from Kharg Island to sell abroad, the US government said.

Court documents allege the scheme involved the Quds Force of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which is its elite expeditionary unit, as well as Iran’s national oil and tanker companies. The two men charged, one of whom also has an Iraqi passport, remain at large.

“Because a US bank froze the funds related to the sale of the vessel, the seller never received payment,” the Justice Department said. “As a result, the seller instituted a civil action in the UAE to recover the vessel.”

That civil action was believed to be still pending, raising questions of how the tanker sailed away from the Emirates after being seized by authorities there.

Data from the MT Gulf Sky’s Automatic Identification System tracker shows it had been turned off around 4:30 a.m. on July 5, according to ship-tracking website MarineTraffic.com. Ships are supposed to keep their AIS trackers on, but Iranian vessels routinely turn theirs off to mask their movements.

Meanwhile, the 28 Indian sailors on board the vessel found themselves stuck on board without pay for months, according to the International Labor Organization. It filed a report saying the vessel and its sailors had been abandoned by its owners since March off Khorfakkan. The ILO did not respond to a request for comment.

As tensions between Iran and the US heated up last year, tankers plying the waters of the Mideast became targets, particularly near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Gulf’s narrow mouth through which 20 percent of all oil passes. Suspected limpet mine attacks the US blamed on Iran targeted several tankers. Iran denied being involved, though it did seize several tankers.