04-01-2018

Dalrymple Bay coal vessel queue moving slowly

The vessel queue off Dalrymple Bay port in Australia’s Queensland is subsiding more slowly than expected nearly a month after maintenance on its berth 2 was due to be completed.

There were 44 vessels at Dalrymple Bay today, down only slightly from 47 a month ago and still more than double the usual queue of 18-20. Waiting times at the port are still up to a month, although this is down on the six-week waiting time for some vessels in early December.

Initial shipping data suggest Dalrymple Bay shipped around 6.3mn t in December. Shipping data, which uses the maximum dead weight tonnage of a vessel, often over estimates the shipments. Shipping data suggested Dalrymple Bay shipped 5.6mn t in November but official port data put the figure at 5.18mn t. The initial data shows that shipments increased in December over November but were still down on the 6.6mn t shipped in December last year and on the 6.64mn t shipped in October. Official port data for December should be available later this week.

Berth 2 was closed for maintenance for most of November and only loaded its first cargo on 10 December, rather than 5 December as had been anticipated. This delayed restart contributed to the lower shipments in December that have meant that the congestion at the port has not cleared as quickly as had been expected.

The congestion was caused by a combination of overallocation in September and October and the maintenance at berth 2. The port was contracted at an annualised rate of up to 100mn t of coal in September and October but only has a maximum rated capacity of 85mn t/yr. Dalrymple Bay exports are mainly coking coal, although the port also ships thermal coal.

The queue for ships wishing to enter the adjacent port of Hay Point, which is operated by coking coal producer BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, has subsided. Initial shipping data for Hay Point suggests it shipped up to 4.9mn t in December, which would be a significant increase on the 3.9mn t officially shipped in November and 2.95mn t shipped in October, as well as on the 3.84mn t shipped in December last year.

The weather in the coal regions of Queensland has been relatively calm so far this wet season, allowing shipments from ports other than Dalrymple Bay to increase. But severe thunderstorms have formed over regions to the southeast today, with the potential to move northwards towards the coal areas.

Initial shipping data implies Gladstone also had a firm end to the year, with up to 6.95mn t shipped in December compared with official port data of 5.4mn t in November and 5.79mn t in October. But this still down slightly on the record breaking 7.12mn t shipped in December last year. Shipping data shows that Abbot Point shipped 2.95mn t in December compared with official port data showing shipments of 2.3mn t in November and October, as well as 2.53mn t in December last year.

The congestion at Dalrymple Bay has been a major factor driving seaborne coking coal prices higher since early November. The Argus premium hard low-volatile coking coal index was at $260.50/t fob Australia yesterday, up from $177/t on 8 November.

Source: Argus

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