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Newcastle port coal exports fall to 16-week low; Japan plans new capacity

25 Nov 2013 14:12:10 | csd


The volume of coal shipped from the Australian port of Newcastle in week 47 fell to its lowest level in 16 weeks at 2.27m tonnes.

Newcastle Port Corporation data released on 25 November show 22.6% less coal was shipped week on week from the port’s three terminals in the seven-day period ending 07:00 Sydney time on 25 November.

However, while the number of coal vessels calling at the port dropped to 28, from the 31 vessels handled the week before, eight ships were waiting to load while another 36 were heading towards the port, more than double from the 17 ships heading for the port the week before.

Meanwhile, stocks at the two Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS)-owned terminals dropped 34.6% week on week to 1.45m tonnes at the end of the week, data from Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator (HVCCC) showed. The third Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group-owned terminal does not publish stock information.

HVCCC said Newcastle Port received just 1.66m tonnes of coal by rail last week, just half of the usual 3.2m tonnes a week before as a large section of the railway serving the port was closed for maintenance between 19 November and 20:00 on 21 November.

Coal market

The majority of high quality Australian coal is sold on a long-term contract basis to Japanese power utilities. Because of this, an analyst recently told ICIS that the growth of the Newcastle market for such coal was capped as it was unlikely that the Japanese utilities would increase their demand in the coming years because no new coal-fired capacity was planned.

On Saturday Nikkei Asian Review reported that Tepco and the Mitsubishi group plan to construct two coal-fired power plants in Fukushima by 2020. The two facilities will have a joint capacity of 1GW and will cost an estimated 300bn yen (€2.2bn), according to the report.

However, the new capacity will not impact the Australian market for high quality coal as the units, which will have a 20% higher power output compared with conventional plants, will be able to use cheaper lower grade coal. Manca Vitorino

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