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Dry Bulk Market: Seaborne Coal Trade Stages Recovery During 2021

Coal exports have staged a significant recovery so far in 2021, helping the dry bulk market’s rally, despite the recent correction. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “2020 proved to be a truly terrible year for global seaborne coal trade. In 2021 things started pretty badly, but we are seeing increasing signs of things returning back to “normal”. In the first 9 months of 2021, global seaborne coal trade increased by +4.7% y-o-y to 884.9 mln tonnes, from 845.2 mln tonnes in the January-September 2020 period. However, this is still -8.9% from 971.8 mln tonnes in Jan-Sep 2019. The worst was in the first quarter, as 1Q 2021 recorded a -8.2% y-o-y decline to 278.0 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 298.3 mln tonnes, which was +8.7% y-o-y compared to 2Q 2020, and down -9.7% compared to 2Q 2019. The third quarter of 2021 was even better, with global coal volumes reaching 308.5 mln tonnes, which was +15.2% up y-o-y from 3Q 2020, although this was still down -4.6% compared to 3Q 2019”.

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

According to Banchero Costa, “Australia is still very much the top exporter of coal worldwide, with 30.8% of global seaborne coal exports this year, ahead of Indonesia’s 27.9% share. The main coal export terminals in Australia are Newcastle (156.1 mln tonnes loaded in Jan-Dec 2020), Hay Point (93.5 mln), Gladstone (67.8 mln), Abbot Point (28.8 mln), and Port Kembla (6.7 mln). Coal shipments from Australia have been fairly steady last year, without too much seasonality being seen. In the first 3 months of 2020, Australia exported 90.3 mln tonnes of coal, which was down just -1.7% y-o-y. However this percentage reflects a fairly weak Q1 in 2019. The second quarter of 2020 saw shipments of 91.3 mln tonnes from Australia, down -9.2% y-o-y. In the third quarter, imports inched downwards to 87.1 mln tonnes, which was down -10.9% y-o-y from the same quarter in 2019. The fourth quarter of 2020 saw an improvement to 89.1 mln tonnes, which was down -8.9% y-o-y”.

The shipbroker added that “volumes were even weaker in the first quarter of 2021, with Australia exporting 85.1 mln tonnes of coal, which was a -5.8% y-o-y decline from the levels of 1Q 2020, and down -7.4% from the first quarter of 2019. In the second quarter of 2021, Australia exported 91.2 mln tonnes, down just -0.1% y-o-y from the (weak) second quarter of last year, but down -9.3% from the same quarter of 2019. In 3Q 2021 things suddenly improved quite a lot, with 96.1 mln tonnes, which was +10.3% up y-o-y from 3Q 2020, and just -1.8% below the 97.8 mln tonnes in J3Q 2019. Overall in the first 9 months of 2021, Australia exported 272.3 mln tonnes of coal, which was up +1.3% y-o-y from the same period in 2020, although still down -6.2% from the same period of 2019. Nevertheless, there have been quite remarkable reshuffles in terms of trade patterns this year. Coal exports from Australia to Mainland China declined by -96.9% y-o-y in Jan-Oct 2021, to just 2.0 mln tonnes.

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

China was the destination for just 0.7% of Australia’s coal this year. Pretty much the opposite happened to India. In Jan-Oct 2021, Australia exported 51.6 mln tonnes of coal to India, up +74.0% y-o-y. India is now the destination for 19% of all Australian coal exports. Similar growth was also seen to South Korea. Australia exported 47.2 mln tonnes of coal to Korea in this period, which represents an increase of +50.6% y-o-y. Shipments from Australia to the European Union also surged by +38.4% y-o-y to 11.2 mln tonnes. The top destination however is still Japan, with 84.7 mln tonnes in JanOct 2021, up by +16.7% y-o-y Japan is now the destination for 31.1% of Australia’s coal exports, with Korea 17.3%, Taiwan 9.8% and the EU at 4.1%”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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