Japan is one of the main markets for global maritime trade. However, 2020 has turned out to be a rather gloomy year for coal. So far, however, 2021 is looking much better, with volumes increasing with each passing month. In a recent weekly report, shipping broker Banchero Costa said that “2020 has turned out to be a really terrible year for the global seaborne coal trade. According to data from Refinitiv, total global loadings in the 12 months of 2020 fell -12.7% year-on-year to 1,130 million tonnes. In 2021 things started off rather badly, but we are seeing more and more signs of a return to “normal”. During the first 7 months of 2021, global maritime coal trade increased by + 2.5% year-on-year to reach 681.8 mln tonnes, compared to 665.1 mln tonnes over the period January-July 2020. However, this remains down -10.2% compared to 759.4 mln tonnes during the same period of 2019. However, the worst was in the first quarter, as the 1Q 2021 saw a decrease of -8.2% year-on-year to 278.1 mln t ”.
According to Banchero Costa, “Things have steadily improved month after month. In the second quarter of 2021, global coal loadings reached 298.3 mln tonnes, or + 8.7% year-on-year compared to 2Q 2020. World coal trade has continued to increase month after month, and in July 2021 reached 105.4 mln tonnes, or + 20.1% more than in July 2020, and only -5.1% less than in July 2019. Japan is the third largest importer coal in the world, after mainland China and India. In 2020, Japan was the destination for 15.0% of global coal shipments by sea. However, imports to Japan have steadily declined over the years, even before Covid, due to limited economic growth and greater reliance on natural gas and renewable energy sources, as well as the restart of power plants. previously closed nuclear power plants. Japanese imports of coal by sea in the 12 months of 2020 decreased by -4.0% year-on-year to 166.8 mln tonnes ”.
The shipping broker added that “let’s keep in mind that even in 2019, imports to Japan were down -2.7% year-on-year, and in 2018, they were down -0.5% year-on-year. As for last year, the worst happened in the third and fourth quarters. In the first quarter of 2020, Japan imported 45.7 million tonnes of coal, which represents a positive increase of + 3.2% year-on-year. In 2Q 2020, imports continued at 39.8 mln tonnes, fairly stable at + 0.3% year-on-year (2Q has been seasonally weak for several years). In Q3 2020, imports to Japan remained at 39.8 mln tonnes, but they were actually down -10.5% year-on-year compared to the same quarter in 2019. In Q4 2020, imports climbed to 41.5 mln tonnes, but again fell by -8.4% year-on-year. ”.
Banchero Costa also noted that “volumes increased again in the first quarter of 2021, with Japan importing 44.6 million tonnes of coal, which is a -2.4% year-on-year decline from levels in the first. quarter of 2020. The second quarter of 2021 was very weak, at only 37.9 million tonnes, down -4.8% year-on-year from the second quarter of last year. In July 2021, things suddenly improved a lot, with 15.6 mln tonnes, or + 26.2% month on month compared to June 2021, up + 9.3% year on year compared to July 2020, and almost identical to the 15.9 mln tonnes recorded in July. 2019. Overall, in the first 7 months of 2021, Japan imported 98.1 million tonnes of coal, a decrease of -1.7% year-on-year compared to the same period in 2020. In terms of sources of coal imports into Japan, things have changed a lot. Australia, which was already the largest exporter of coal to Japan, further increased its volumes as it had to divert cargo it would have sold in the past to China. Imports to Japan from Australia increased + 9.9% year-on-year to 64.7 mln tonnes in the first 7 months of 2021, compared to 58.8 mln tonnes in the same period by 2020. Australia now accounts for 66% of Japan’s coal imports. The second largest source of coal imports from Japan is Indonesia, with a share of 12%. Shipments from Indonesia to Japan declined -26.3% year-on-year to 11.9 mln tonnes in the first 7 months of 2021, compared to 16.2 mln tonnes in the same period of 2020 ”, concluded the shipping broker.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide