Exports surge eats into South African coal stocks
Exports from South Africa's Richards Bay coal terminal (RBCT) accelerated during March, as sources said Indian buyers emerged during the month, pushing coal stocks at the port to their lowest point in 2013, according to terminal data published on Tuesday.
However, stocks were higher in each of the first three months of 2013 than in the corresponding months last year. At the end of March, the port had 3.68m tonnes of coal in stock, 22% more than at the corresponding time last year.
In March, the port exported just under 7.5m tonnes of coal - 37% more than in February and its highest monthly export figure since December 2011. Export volumes for December are generally boosted because RBCT works towards calendar-year targets for its total annual shipments.
The amount exported in March took the total shipped from the terminal in the first quarter of this year to a figure 2.2% greater than in the first quarter last year, even though exports in January and March this year lagged behind the volumes for the corresponding months of 2012.
High physical prices
Physical prices at the FOB RB market slipped below $80/tonne during March, which market sources said enticed Indian buyers to snap up some prompt cargoes.
In addition, several sources said, one producer has been marketing South African coal into Europe recently, even though FOB RB physical prompt prices appear too high to sell in the Atlantic basin.
The amount of coal received by RBCT was up, too, with 4.85% more coal arriving by rail during the first quarter of this year than in the corresponding period last year. Last year, RBCT received 68.5m tonnes of coal. The company is projecting an annual rate of 75.53m tonnes received in 2013.
RBCT's export capacity is 91m tonnes of coal a year, but South Africa's current rail infrastructure holds it back from exporting that amount.
South African multi-discipline freight company Transnet has said it is looking to increase its ability to transport coal in the next few years. Fionn O'Raghallaigh
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