No Australian Coal Is Likely To Arrive At Chinese Ports This Month As Chinese Buyers Hold Off Booking Cargoes Amid An Unofficial Ban.

No Australian Coal Is Likely To Arrive At Chinese Ports This Month As Chinese Buyers Hold Off Booking Cargoes Amid An Unofficial Ban On Australian Supplies, market participants said. Ports including Bayuquan in the northern province of Liaoning and Xiamen in south China’s Fujian province are not expecting to receive any coal from Australia in March, officials close to the port administrations told Argus. No such cargoes arrived last month.

Two 75,000t shipments left the predominantly thermal coal port of Newcastle in New South Wales last month bound for Bayuquan and Xiamen ports respectively, shipping data show. A few Chinese buyers may have booked new Australian cargoes early this year, betting that Beijing would lift its informal ban. But these cargoes could have subsequently been redirected to other countries as the ban stayed in place.

Chinese ports have not yet even cleared coal that arrived months earlier, after the verbal ban was put in place in October. About 7-8 cargoes of Australian coal are still waiting offshore Bayuquan port to be unloaded, a north China-based trader said. He estimated that a total of 3mn t of Australian coking coal and no more than five cargoes of thermal coal are waiting offshore Chinese ports.

“I do not think anyone in China dare to book new Australian cargoes,” a second north China-based trader told Argus. There is no sign that the ban will be lifted in the near term, he added.

Chinese customs “did not clear any Australian cargoes after the ban was put in place,” a market participant close to the customs authority said. But authorities may have released some Australian coal that had been put in bonded warehouses at the ports well before the ban, just to clear space, he added. This might explain the 406,000t of Australian coal that showed up in China’s official import data for November 2020.

Some Australian coal shipments were allowed to unload at Chinese ports in February and in previous months, but this was seen as a humanitarian move to release crew members rather than a resumption of coal trade between the two nations. All the unloaded coal was left at the ports and not cleared by customs.

Chinese utilities have struggled to secure sufficient bituminous coal supplies from alternative countries such as South Africa, after flows were hit by a five-year suspension of coal imports from the country because of stricter limits on trace elements. Rising demand from China made it South Africa’s biggest coal market in February, surpassing India. South Africa shipped 1.25mn t of coal to China last month, according to export data, up from zero in February 2020 and 330,000t in January.

This news was originally published at Argus Media.