Australia’s Gladstone ships no coal to China in January

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The Australian port of Gladstone in Queensland did not ship coal to China for a third month in a row in January, with Japan and India taking more coal than average and a shipment heading to Pakistan for the first time since March 2015.

Beijing's ban on Australian coal imports stopped exporters from Gladstone from shipping any coal to China in January, December and November, according to official port data. Initial shipping data collated by Argus indicates that none of the other coal export facilities in Queensland and New South Wales exported to China in December or January, after some minor exports in November. Official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data showed that Australia exported 387,000t of coal to China in December, down from 9.06mn t in December 2019.

Australian shippers have looked for alternate markets to offset the decline in shipments to China, with Gladstone exporting more coal than average to India and Japan in January and shipping to Pakistan for the first time in nearly six years and to Argentina for the first time in 18 months. Despite this diversification, total shipments from Gladstone fell by nearly a million tonnes from January last year to 5.87mn t last month and were below the 6.07mn t shipped in December. China took 1.42mn t of coal from Gladstone in January 2020.

Initial shipping data suggest that the adjacent Queensland ports of Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay had a weaker January than December, while Abbot Point exports rebounded in January from a weak December. Official January data for these ports are expected later this week.

There were 23 ships waiting to load outside of Gladstone today, slightly above the average of around 20 vessels. There were 26 ships waiting outside Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay, with just one outside of Abbot Point.

Argus last assessed high-grade Australian thermal coal at $84.40/t fob Newcastle for NAR 6,000 kcal/kg on 5 February, down from a 10-month high of $89.62/t on 29 January but up from a low of $46.18/t on 4 September. It assessed lower-grade coal at $53.22/t fob Newcastle for NAR 5,500 kcal/kg on 5 February, down from $55.01/t on 29 January and up from $35.04/t on 4 September.

The heat-adjusted premium on a NAR 6,000 basis for higher-grade thermal coal was $26.34/t on 5 February compared with $29.61/t on 29 January and $8.65/t at the end of August.

Argus last assessed the premium hard coking coal price at $155.15/t fob Australia on 5 February, down from a recent high of $157.25/t on 1 February but up from $103.50/t at the beginning of 2021.

Around a third of Gladstone's total exports were hard coking coal in 2019, with a third lower-grade coking coals and a third thermal coal.

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