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Surge in demand for coal drives Australia’s Newcastle vessel queue to 15-month high


The number of vessels queuing at the Port Waratah Coal Services terminals has surged in recent weeks following stronger demand for the commodity, a spokesman for PWCS said Monday.

The queue stood at 29 ships Sunday, which is the highest end-of-week figure in 15 months, data from the logistics coordinator for the Hunter Valley coal chain showed Monday.

“The main reason is because of a surge in demand, probably in response to the recent rise in spot coal prices,” the PWCS spokesman told S&P Global Platts.

“Our volumes are tracking very well,” he said, adding that 2016 may end up a record year for exports from the terminals.

The Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator has not reported a queue as long or longer than 29 in its end-of-week report since May last year when there were 35 ships queueing.

For the year to date, the queue has averaged just 12 vessels at the combined 140 million mt/year capacity terminals, which services coal miners including Centennial Coal, Rio Tinto, Peabody Energy and Whitehaven among others.

The Hunter Valley rail line, which connects to the coal export terminals, has faced industrial action this month and has major maintenance works scheduled for this week, but the spokesman said that had very little, if any, impact to the growth in ship numbers lining up at Newcastle.

Pre-planned maintenance on the Hunter Valley coal rail corridor is due to take place from 6 am local time Tuesday (2030 GMT Monday) through to late evening Thursday, the Australian Rail Track Corporation said last week.

“It will take place in the rail corridor form around Kooragang Island, North to Narrabri and between Muswellbrook and Ulan on the Ulan line,” it added.

ARTC saw four days of continuous strike action from August 3-6, and unions had intended to implement work bans August 17-18 and Tuesday this week, but they were called off last week.

“We will be working very closely with our customers to see what opportunities there are following the maintenance shutdown to recover from the industrial action period as best as possible,” ARTC’s executive general manager for the Hunter Valley Jonathan Vandervoort said late last week.

The next major Hunter Valley maintenance works period is scheduled for October 11-14, ARTC said.

Based on terminal demand, the Port Waratah vessel queue is estimated to grow further by the end of the month to 31, HVCCC said.

Inbound receivals for the week to August 21 were 3.55 million mt, up from 3.34 million mt in the week to August 14, HVCCC’s weekly report said.

Planned delivery rates were 213,000 mt below target while actual inbound performance was 174,000 mt below the declared inbound throughput, HVCCC said. “Total losses finished the week at 6.8% compared to the declared target of 7%,” it added.

Port Waratah port stocks finished the week at 1.34 million mt, down by around 154,000 mt from the previous week, it said.

In Queensland, the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal at Hay Point had one tanker loading and 12 at anchor, compared to two loading and 11 at anchor a week ago, DBCT Management said.

The RG Tanna terminal at the port of Gladstone, also in Queensland, had four coal vessels at berth and eight at anchor, Gladstone Ports Corporation said, which compares to three vessels at berth Monday last week and 11 at anchor.

Source: Platts 

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