Coal shipments from Queensland’s ports have remained subdued in August after reaching a 17-month low in July, as demand stays weak and ports use the slow period to undertake maintenance.
Shipping data suggests that early-August shipments from Queensland are in line with those in July, when shipments dropped by 20pc year on year. That decline was driven by a fall in exports from the multi-user 85mn t/yr Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT), which is having a weak 2020 because of lower demand for products shipped through the port and safety closures at the mines it serves.
DBCT and the adjacent port of Hay Point, which is operated by the world’s largest supplier of seaborne coking coal BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, are both undertaking maintenance work on shiploaders to allow them to meet any increase in demand should more steelmaking and power generation capacity be bought back on line as governments look to bolster national economies.
The 6,000 t/hr shiploader at Hay Point’s berth No.1 is closed for maintenance from 4 August to 18 November, while the 6,000 t/hr berth No.2 shiploader was closed from 30 June to 7 August. The 8,400 t/hr berth No.3 shiploader is scheduled for a short maintenance on 20-24 August. At DBCT, the 7,200 t/hr berth No.1 shiploader is closed from 15 July to 14 August for maintenance.
DBCT is falling short of its target to ship at an annualised rate of 80.57mn t/yr for August, with it achieving an average of just 47.2mn t/yr during 1-11 July. It missed its July target of 71.4mn t/yr by nearly 30pc and fell short of its June target of 77.66mn t/yr by around 25pc, according to data released by North Queensland Bulk Ports.
The August decline deepens a trend of falling coal exports over the course of this year, with official port data showing that shipments from Queensland fell by 8pc during January-July compared with the same period last year. The cuts could become more pronounced over the coming months. Chinese port restrictions are poised to tighten, particularly for coking coal, while safety issues continue to plague mines in Queensland.
Weak demand is showing up in below-average ship queue numbers, despite the maintenance at DBCT and Hay Point. DBCT has a vessel queue of just 13 today, logistics data show. The combined queue for DBCT and the adjacent port of Hay Point is at 18 today, according to marine trackers, compared with an average of 22 and a high of 55 in March. The queue is also short at the Queensland port of Gladstone, at 14, and fairly average at Abbot Point at five vessels.
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