23-11-2017

Vessel queue at Australia’s Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal at highest in nearly eight years

The number of coal vessels queuing at the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal in Australia's Queensland state is at the highest level seen since early 2010, shipping data and historical records from terminal operator DBCT Management showed.

On Wednesday, there were 44 ships at anchor off the terminal and two loading coal, according to shipping data.

Monthly daily average queue lengths for the terminal have not breached 40 ships since 2010, according to DBCT Management data dating from April 2009 to June 2017.

Figures were not readily available for July-October of this year. In 2010, the average daily queue in May grew as long as 61.7 ships, according to the data.

But from 2011 to June 2017, the monthly daily average queue has exceeded 30 ships only twice. In November last year it was as low as nine ships.

The most recently available monthly daily average is for June when there were 27.6 vessels.

"DBCT works on a cargo assembly basis, which means that cargo is railed specifically to meet each shipment on a just-in-time basis," said a report from a shipping agency.

"Due to the nature of the supply chain linking DBCT and the mines which it services, actual delays can vary due to actual production at the mines, congestion at the port and rail allocation," the report added.

Also, Berth No. 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance between November 8 and December 5.

While buyers had reported delays for coal deliveries from DBCT since October, urgency began to build in the met coal market early in November, lending support to met coal prices.

Platts Premium Low Vol FOB Australia saw a 8.4% hike in prices from the beginning of November to date, moving from $179/mt FOB Australia on November 1 to $194/mt FOB Australia Tuesday.

Buyers continue to report delays of 20-30 days in their coal deliveries, with several buyers also having procured prompt cargoes at higher prices to offset shortages stemming from the delays.

Coal exports from DBCT, which services mines in Central Queensland's Bowen Basin, have been strong in recent months.

The terminal, which is leased from the state government by DBCT Management, operated near its 85 million mt/year nameplate capacity for August-October, at an annualized rate of 80.20 million mt.

For January-October however, its annualized rate was lagging at 64.75 million mt after the impact of Cyclone Debbie which made landfall in late March.

In recent months, DBCT has at times run above nameplate capacity, a source close to the terminal said Wednesday.

And while throughput is expected to be strong in December, the queues are expected to ease by the end of 2017, or in the beginning of the new year -- subject to an unusual weather event changing that forecast, he said.

Source: Platts

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