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China’s Coal Imports Retreated During 2022, as EU’s Imports Grew

The seaborne coal market showed a significant increase of 5.8% during 2022, despite the fact that the world’s largest importer, China, was down compared to 2021. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “after a slow start in the first quarter, global coal trade has really picked up pace last year, and is now fully back to pre-Covid levels. In the full 12 months of 2022, total global seaborne coal loadings increased by +5.8% y-o-y to 1204.8 mln t (excluding cabotage), from 1138.3 mln t in the full 12 months of 2021, although still below the 1275.6 mln t in Jan-Dec 2019. As already mentioned, the worst was at start of the year, and the trend in recent months has been increasingly positive. In 1Q 2022, global loadings were down -4.8% y-o-y to just 257.4 mln t, and down -20.3% from 1Q 2019. In 2Q 2022, coal loadings were a strong +8.5% y-o-y at 313.8 mln t, and down -4.1% from 2Q 2019. In 3Q 2022, shipments increased again to 317.2 mln t, up +6.3% y-o-y, and just -0.7% from 3Q 2019. In 4Q 2022, loadings were 316.5 mln t, up +12.9% y-o-y from 4Q 2021, and -0.6% from 4Q 2019. In Jan-Dec 2022, exports from Indonesia increased by +21.1% y-o-y to 388.8 mln t, whilst from Australia down -5.0% y-o-y to 340.4 mln t”.

Source: Banchero Costa

According to the shipbroker, “seaborne coal imports into the European Union surged by +34.0% yo-y to 116.6 mln t in Jan-Dec 2022, whilst imports to India increased by +13.6% y-o-y to 203.8 mln t, and imports to China declined by -3.2% y-o-y to 234.7 mln t. Mainland China is currently the world’s largest seaborne importer of coal (including both thermal and coking), accounting for 19.8% of the global seaborne coal market in 2022. It was ahead of India, which accounts for 17.2% of coal trade and Japan with a 14.6% market share. Total seaborne coal imports into China in the 12 months of 2022 reached 234.9 mln tonnes, according to Refinitiv vessel tracking data. This was down -3.3% y-o-y from the 242.8 mln tonnes of 2021, and -1.6% from the 238.7 mln t in 2020, and also -10.4% below the record 262.1 mln tonnes imported in 2019. The year started poorly but finished strongly”.

Banchero Costa added that “in 1Q 2022, China imported just 38.7 mln t of coal (-35.2% y-o-y), in 2Q 2022 they climbed to 49.3 mln t (- 16.5% y-o-y), in 3Q 2022 moved up further to 72.1 mln t (+10.7% y-o-y), and in 4Q 2022 improved further to 74.8 mln t (+26.8% y-o-y). The main coal import terminals in Mainland China are: Meizhou in Fujian (14.8 mln t discharged in Jan-Dec 2022), Guangzhou in Guangdong (13.3 mln t), Caofeidian in Hebei (11.3 mln t), Fangcheng in Guangxi (10.7 mln t), Haimen in Guangdong (9.2 mln t), Qinzhou (8.4 mln t), Yuhuan (7.2 mln t), Shanghai (6.6 mln t), Bayuquan (6.3 mln t), Tianjin (6.0 mln t), Shanwei (5.6 mln t), Rizhao (5.4 mln t), Jingtang (5.1 mln t), Taicang (5.1 mln t), Zhuhai (4.9 mln t), Raoping (4.8 mln t), Zhanjiang (4.7 mln t). The majority (60%) of coal volumes into China are loaded on Panamax or Post-Panamax vessels, with 30% on Handy or Supramax vessels, and just 10% on Capesize or VLOC tonnage.

Source: Banchero Costa

In terms of trading patterns, things are changing quite a bit. Indonesia is still by far the top supplier of coal to China, accounting for 60.9% of China’s imports in 2022. Arrivals from Indonesia however declined by -1.9% y-o-y to 143.0 mln t in the full 12 months of 2022. The second largest supplier of coal to China is Russia, accounting for a 23.9% share of Chinese imports. Shipments from Russia to China increased by +35.5% y-o-y to 56.0 mln t in Jan-Dec 2022, from 41.4 mln tonnes in the same period of 2021. On a monthly basis, volumes from Russia to China reached an all-time record of 7.4 mln tonnes in July 2022 (+81.8% y-o-y) and then declined to a still impressive 5.6 mln tonnes in December 2022 (+78.8% y-o-y). Imports from Russia have surged last year as Europe suspended purchasing from the country. Shipments from the USA to China declined by -62.9% y-o-y to 4.5 mln t in Jan-Dec 2022, from the record 12.0 mln tonnes in 2021. Volumes from South Africa have also declined by -38.6% y-o-y to 8.5 mln t in 2022, from 13.8 mln t in 2021”, the shipbroker concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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