August thermal and metallurgical coal exports from Australia's 102mn t/yr Gladstone port continued to fall, as Queensland heads towards a nine-year low on weaker demand from India, wet weather, Covid-19 absenteeism, royalty hikes and mine plan changes.
Gladstone's January-August shipments were 10.8pc behind where they were in the same period last year and 14.5pc behind January-August 2019. Queensland shipments are heading toward an annual low not seen since 2013, despite record-high prices, as the fall at Gladstone is matched by low coal shipments from other key ports in the state.
Shipments to India are down by more than a third year to date compared with a year earlier, with Australian shippers blaming competition from Russian suppliers into this key metallurgical coal market.India in 2019 and 2020 overtook Japan as the biggest buyer of coal from Gladstone. It slipped slightly behind in 2021 on increased Japanese buying. But this was only marginal compared with the fall this year, with Gladstone shipping 8.5mn t to India during January-August and 13.7mn t to Japan.
Gladstone shipped 4.91mn t of coal in August, down from 5.15mn t in July and from 6.09mn t in August 2021, according to data from Gladstone Ports (GPCL). August was wetter than average in the coal mining regions that supply Gladstone, with more wet weather forecast for September-November ahead of a 70pc prospect of yet another La Nina weather trend in 2022-23 that will bring more heavy rain. Royalty hikes, mine plan changes to capitalise on a premium for high-grade thermal coal and workforce shortages are also weighing on throughput at Gladstone.
The vessel queue waiting outside of Gladstone was 32 on 6 September, up from 26 on 8 August and above the average queue of around 20.
Gladstone did not ship to Poland in August after three straight months of shipments, although it did ship 80,000t to the Netherlands. Australia is increasing coal exports to Europe in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Argus last assessed high-grade 6,000 kcal/kg NAR thermal coal at a record high of $438.94/t fob Newcastle on 2 September, up from $383.82/t on 1 July and above the previous peak of $425.90/t on 20 May. It assessed the premium hard low-volatile metallurgical coal price at $275/t fob Australia on 5 September, up from $203/t on 5 August but down from $664/t on 15 March.
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