EU coal ports “cautious” but so far unaffected by virus
Northwest Europe’s three main coal import hubs – Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA) – have not yet experienced any disruptions to vessel arrivals or port operations linked to the Covid-19 virus, port sources told Montel.
The three ARA ports are a key gateway for mainland Europe’s coal supply, handling just over 40m tonnes of coal last year and holding an average of nearly 7m tonnes in stock over the period.
“We do not see [Covid-19] having an impact on operations yet,” said Hugo Du Mez, dry bulk advisor at the Port of Rotterdam, pointing out that it takes around five weeks for a vessel to arrive from China.
“And China is only the 13th-largest supplier of dry bulk cargoes to Rotterdam,” he said.
The Port of Rotterdam Authority said on its website no “additional measures” were currently required in relation to the virus outbreak that has affected more than 100,000 people worldwide.
Although China does not generally export coal to Europe, the arrival of an infected vessel – which has visited ports in China, or other affected countries, in recent weeks – to one of these three giant European seaborne trade hubs could potentially hamper deliveries from all countries.
Some coal ports outside Europe, particularly in Australia, have already imposed strict restrictions on vessels arriving from higher-risk countries – such as two weeks’ quarantine before berthing.
“Obviously, we are cautious for possible threats,” said a source at one large ARA coal import terminal.
A source at another coal terminal said it was following government regulation and official heath organisation advice.
In a “vessel arrival form” seen by Montel, captains must stipulate if their ship has visited any Covid-19-affected areas and list all ports visited over the past 30 days.
At Amsterdam, the port authority said standard “infectious diseases” procedure should be followed.
“When sick people are on board a ship, this must always be reported by the captain or the agency to the harbour master’s division,” it said.
A spokesman for Port of Antwerp authority said there had been no reported cases of the virus so far at the port and there had been no issues with vessels arriving from coal-producing countries.
But the authority estimated a month’s worth of traffic to and from China would be lost this year as a result of the epidemic.
“This is just our preliminary estimate, and we should have a much better idea after the first quarter results of companies at the port,” he said, adding however container shipments would be most affected.
Du Mez also said the impact on container trade at Rotterdam would be “dramatic”.