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Chinese go-slow on Australian coal imports may be starting to show - Report

Coal News - Published on Wed, 20 Mar 2019

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Reuters reported that China's unofficial go-slow on clearing Australian coal through customs didn't show up in the first two months of this year, but it may now be starting to have an impact. Chinese coal traders are reported to have cut back on buying from Australia, the world's largest exporter of the fuel, after the length of time taken by customs to clear cargoes reportedly doubled to at least 40 days.

The Chinese customs administration said earlier this month that it has made no changes to coal import policies nor its inspection of foreign cargoes, although a foreign ministry spokesman said environmental and safety checks have been stepped up.

The concern that China was restricting Australian coal imports led to a drop in the Australian dollar and weaker coal prices at the main export port of Newcastle. But an analysis of China's imports of Australian coal for the first two months of 2019 doesn't show any dramatic changes in volumes from the same period last year.

According to vessel-tracking and port data compiled by Refinitiv, a total of 13.9 million tonnes of Australian coal arrived in China in the January-February period, up 4.5 percent from the 13.3 million in the same period last year.

The data does show that February's arrivals of 5.83 million tonnes were well below January's 8.07 million, but that could be ascribed to the week-long holiday Lunar New Year holidays that fell in early February.

According to Refinitiv, what may be more concerning is that up to March 17 only 2.5 million tonnes of Australian coal was discharged at Chinese ports.

The data also shows that 7.89 million tonnes is expected to be offloaded during March, meaning that customs clearances and offloading would have to accelerate significantly in the last two weeks of the months compared to the first two.

A total of 17 ships carrying Australian coal are currently awaiting discharge at Chinese ports, according to the data, a figure that is slightly higher than normal.

By comparison, there are 13 vessels carrying Indonesian coal currently awaiting discharge outside Chinese ports, according to Refinitiv.

Indonesia, which is the world's largest exporter of thermal coal and the biggest supplier to China, has also seen largely steady shipments to China in the first two months of the year.

China imported 21.2 million tonnes of Indonesian coal in the January-February period, slightly below the 21.9 million from the same period last year.

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Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Wed, 20 Mar 2019
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