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Coal Seaborne Trade on the Rise in 2021 as new Routes Emerge

Seaborne coal trade has reversed the downward trend of the past couple of years, with 2021 so far being in positive territory. In a recent weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “2021 continues to see a steady but consistent recovery in coal demand and therefore also trade. In the first 10 months of 2021, global seaborne coal trade increased by +5.1% y-o-y to 984.7 mln tonnes, from 936.7 mln tonnes in the January-October 2020 period. However, this is still -9.1% down from the 1083.7 mln tonnes in JanOct 2019. The worst this year was in the first quarter, as 1Q 2021 recorded a -8.6% y-o-y decline to 276.7 mln t, which was also a massive -12.6% down compared to the (pre-Covid) first quarter of 2019. In the second quarter of 2021, global coal loadings reached 297.0 mln tonnes, which was +8.2% y-o-y compared to 2Q 2020, and down -10.1% compared to 2Q 2019. The third quarter of 2021 was even better, with global coal volumes reaching 306.6 mln tonnes, which was +14.5% up y-o-y from 3Q 2020, although this was still down -5.2% compared to 3Q 2019. October 2021 was again strong, with 104.4 mln tonnes, up +14.1% y-o-y. Colombia is the world’s sixth largest seaborne exporter of coal, and the second largest in the Americas after the USA. Export volumes from this South American country have steadily declined in recent years, as it is being penalized by declining coal demand in the Atlantic basin, and by its distance from the more resilient Asian markets”.

Source: banchero costa &c s.p.a.

According to Banchero Costa, “total seaborne coal exports from Colombia in the 12 months of 2020 reached 50.3 mln tonnes, -32.2% yo-y, according to Refinitiv vessel tracking data. However, even 2019 saw a -4.8% yo-y decline in exports, as did 2018 with a -6.4% y-o-y decline. The vast majority of Colombian coal exports are loaded on the northern (Caribbean) coast of the country. The two main ports there are Puerto Drummond, which accounted for 27.1 mln tonnes in 2020, and Puerto Bolivar (which saw the biggest drop) with 12.1 mln tonnes in 2020. Other ports nearby are Puerto Nuevo, from where 6.7 mln tonnes of coal were loaded in 2020, and Santa Maria with 1.6 mln tonnes.

The shipbroker added that “the only major port on the western (Pacific Ocean) coast of Colombia is Buenaventura, from where 2.3 mln tonnes of coal were loaded in 2020. The Aguadulce terminal at Buenaventura port has been building up operations since its launch in March 2017, with facilities to load Panamax, Handymax and Supramax vessels. Japan is currently the main destination for shipments from Buenaventura, with South Korea, India and Chile also receiving some coal from the port. In the first 3 months of 2021, Colombia exported 13.6 mln tonnes of coal, down -19.7% y-o-y. In the second quarter of 2021, Colombia exported 13.1 mln tonnes, up +2.9% y-o-y from a very weak 2Q 2020 but down -30.5% from the same quarter in 2019. In 3Q 2021 things improved a little, with 14.5 mln tonnes, which was +31.8% up y-o-y from 3Q 2020, although still -23.7% below the 19.0 mln tonnes in 3Q 2019. Overall in the first 10 months of 2021, Colombia exported 46.1 mln tonnes of coal, which was up +6.6% y-o-y from the same period in 2020, although still down -25.0% from the same period of 2019”.

“Nevertheless, there have been quite remarkable reshuffles in terms of trade patterns. Coal exports from Colombia to the EU increased by +83.8% y-o-y in JanOct 2021, to 7.1 mln tonnes. However they are still shy of the 10.0 mln tonnes on this route in the same period of 2019, not to mention the 22 mln tonnes in Jan-Oct 2017. Shipments to China continue to grow, and were 3.7 mln tonnes in Jan-Oct 2021, double the 1.7 mln tonnes in the same period last year. The top destination however is still Turkey, with 10.5 mln tonnes in JanOct 2021, down -5.1% y-o-y”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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