Shipping data seen by ICIS shows the EU-27 countries took just under half of all coal exported from the Colombian terminal Puerto Bolivar in 2012, while Turkey snapped up nearly a quarter.
Colombian producer Cerrejon accounts for the vast majority of exports from Puerto Bolivar, with coal coming from its mine in northern Colombia, one of the largest opencast coal mines in the world in extraction volume, surface area and reserves. Cerrejon said in early January that it exported about 32.8m tonnes in 2012.
According to the data, 32.7m tonnes of thermal coal went through Puerto Bolivar, although not all of this was necessarily Cerrejon's coal.
Cargoes from the port landing at EU member states totalled 15.13m tonnes, according to the data, with the biggest slice of that figure going to the Netherlands at 7.0m tonnes. Turkey took just under 23% or 7.4m tonnes of coal exported from the port. Deutsche Bank analysts said in a note on Friday 55% of all Colombia's exported thermal coal went to EU countries last year including Turkey stretches the figure to 65%, they added.
Turkey's growing appetite for electricity is unlikely to translate into significant demand for international coal, sources have previously said (see CSD 18 January 2013). Infrastructure constraints mean that only a few power plants on the coast can source hard coal from South Africa, Colombia or the US, such as German-headquartered energy company STEAG's 1.3GW Iskenderun plant on the south coast, but the data suggests demand was there last year.
Cerrejon's production has ground to a halt as its workers downed tools earlier this month to strike over wages. Cerrejon - jointly owned by global mining giants Anglo-American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata - said late on Monday night it had agreed the conditions to resume negotiations with union Sintracarbon, which represents most of the Cerrejon workers. The union also confirmed this on Tuesday.
Dublin-based CMC, which markets Cerrejon's coal, told ICIS last week there have been no loadings since 7 February for Cerrejon's coal.
Other Colombia producers and players forming part of the supply chain in the South American country have been beset with problems affecting coal export, which has led Deutsche Bank analysts to suggest 84% of thermal coal exports in the country are affected. However, despite Colombia being Europe's biggest supplier recently, near-curve prices on the CIF ARA paper market have drifted lower after initially picking up when the strike went ahead.
March was assessed just $0.05/tonne above April on Monday, indicating that market participants expect the current disruptions to coal coming from Colombia to ease by April. European utilities' coal stockpiles coal remain sufficient for now, sources said.
The German-based bank's analysts suggested US coal could step in to supply Europe if the majority of Colombia's export remains curtailed, but a Swiss-based trading source told ICIS they thought Russian producers could also fill the gap. Russian producers have tried to sell into Europe aggressively recently, physical traders reported.
Asian demand was limited enough, with cargoes from Puerto Bolivar sailing to China and Korea in March, April and May. Japan bought a small amount, while Indian buyers were only active in July. Fionn O'Raghallaigh