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South Africa’s RBCT coal exports drop, stocks steady

07 May 2013 12:23:05 | csd

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Coal stocks at South Africa's Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) were almost flat month on month in April, with exports dropping off as Indian buyers' interest waned.

Coal stocks were down by just 1.9% to 3.61m tonnes at the end of April compared with the end of March, according to data from RBCT out on Monday. Just under 17% less coal was shipped during April from South Africa's main coal terminal than in March.

At the start of April, interest from Indian buyers was said to be strong in securing coal from South Africa's free on board (FOB) Richards Bay (RB) physical market, with four April-loading cargoes sold in the first part of the month.

Physical prices for 6,000Kcal/kg NAR at FOB RB rose above $83/tonne mid-month, which coincided with the interest of Indian buyers shifting to Indonesian coal.

The absence of buyers from the sub-continent pushed prices back down towards $80/tonne by the end of April.

For most of 2013, one producer has been marketing South African coal into Europe, even though FOB RB physical prompt prices appeared too high to sell in the Atlantic basin for most of that time. This selling has started to dry up, which might have been another driver for the reduction of exports month on month.

The volume shipped from the terminal this April is 21% more than that for the same month last year. Exports were 6.5% higher over the first four months of 2013 than over the first four months of 2012. RBCT forecasts 75.93m tonnes will be shipped from the terminal in 2013, up from the 69.58m tonnes it predicted in its March report. Last year producers shipped 63.84m tonnes.

The increase in forecast exports comes despite sentiment about Asian demand, particularly from China, which has soured over the past month. However, Indian buyers are expected to increase imports of coal and South Africa is likely to benefit from this.

The amount of coal received by RBCT over the opening four months of the year is up too, with 12% more coal arriving by rail during the four-month period than in the corresponding period last year. Last year, RBCT received 68.5m tonnes of coal. The company is projecting an annual rate of 71.74m tonnes for 2013, down from 75.53m tonnes forecast a month ago.

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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