Could the disruption of the Australian marine coal trade lead to an increase in tonne-mile demand?


VSTrade tensions between China and Australia, which have led to disruptions in the coal trade, still so important to the dry bulk market, could potentially lead to more long-haul charters. For example, Canada is the world’s seventh largest exporter of coal. During the 2019 calendar, the country exported a total of 58.7 million tonnes of coal by sea, according to ship tracking data from Refinitiv. Canada is also the world’s fourth largest exporter of metallurgical coal, after Australia, the United States and Russia. Almost half of the coal produced in Canada is thermal and the other half is metallurgical. Canadian exports are mainly metallurgical coal. Alberta and British Columbia produced 85% of Canada’s coal.

According to shipping broker Banchero Costa, “Canada exports about half of its coal production. Given the location of its mineral resources, the overwhelming majority of Canadian coal exports are shipped from ports in British Columbia on the Pacific coast. Of the 58.7 mln tonnes shipped in calendar year 2019, 55.2% (32.4 mln tonnes) were shipped from Roberts Bank, 19.6% (11.5 mln tonnes) from Vancouver and 18.7% (11.0 mln tonnes) from Prince Rupert. Only 6.2% of exports (3.7 mln tonnes) were shipped from Quebec to the Atlantic coast. The vast majority of Canada’s coal exports go to Asia, which remains a major consumer. Canada also imports coal, but this is mainly due to logistical constraints. The 2.1 million tonnes of coal imported in calendar year 2019 were fully delivered to the Atlantic coast, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. These imports all come from Colombia and the United States ”.

Banchero Costa added that “Canadian coal exports have increased moderately in recent years, but have experienced a marked slowdown this year. In the first 10 months of 2020, Canada exported 40.0 million tonnes of coal by sea, according to ship tracking data from Refinitiv. This represents a sharp drop of -18.4% year-on-year, compared to the 49.0 mln tonnes exported during the same ten-month period of 2019. Things have gradually deteriorated throughout the year . The first quarter of 2020 was already bad, with Canada exporting 12.4 million tonnes of marine coal, which is a decrease of -9.5% compared to the same period last year ”.

“The second quarter of 2020 was worse, as global demand evaporated due to lockdowns and the economic recession. During the period April-June 2020, Canada’s maritime coal exports declined -18.6% year-on-year to 12.2 million tonnes. Things were even more disappointing in the third quarter. Between July and September, Canada exported 11.1 million tonnes of coal, down -29.8% from the 15.8 million tonnes exported in the same quarter last year. The biggest drop in exports in the first 10 months of this year was to India, down -41.4% year-on-year to just 3.0 mln tonnes. In contrast, shipments to Japan fell only -3.6% year-on-year to 12.3 mln tonnes. Japan remains the primary destination for Canadian coal, accounting for 31% of all Canadian coal shipments. Shipments to South Korea were down -11.6% year-on-year to 10.4 mln t. Exports to mainland China were down -5.8% yoy to 4.9 mln t. To Taiwan down -25.3% year-on-year to 1.5 mln tonnes. Shipments to the European Union fell 13.1% year-on-year to 2.9 million tonnes, ”the shipping broker concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide