The seaborne coal market grew by almost 6% during 2022, reversing the negative trend of the previous years. As more countries chose to boost their use of conventional energy, coal was again in high demand. However, Australia’s coal exports were still down last year, mainly as a result of China’s choice of alternative markets for its coal needs. This is expected to change in 2023, as the two countries have mended their relations.
In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “after a slow start in the first quarter, global coal trade has really picked up pace last year, and is now fully back to pre-Covid levels. In the full 12 months of 2022, total global seaborne coal loadings increased by +5.9% y-o-y to 1208.0 mln t (excluding cabotage), from 1140.4 mln t in the full 12 months of 2021, although still below the 1275.6 mln t in Jan-Dec 2019. The worst was at start of the year, with a positive trend in later months. In 1Q 2022, global loadings were down -4.8% y-o-y to just 258.0 mln t, and down -17.4% from 1Q 2019. In 2Q 2022, coal loadings were a strong +8.4% y-o-y at 314.0 mln t, and down -3.6% from 2Q 2019. In 3Q 2022, shipments increased again to 317.7 mln t, up +6.3% y-o-y, and just -0.5% from 3Q 2019. In 4Q 2022, loadings were 318.3 mln t, up +13.3% y-o-y from 4Q 2021, and -0.1% from 4Q 2019”.
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According to Banchero Costa, “in Jan-Dec 2022, exports from Indonesia increased by +21.0% y-o-y to 388.4 mln t, whilst from Australia were down -5.0% y-o-y to 340.1 mln t, and from Russia were up +3.1% yo-y to 182.5 mln t. Seaborne coal imports into the European Union surged by +33.8% yo-y to 116.5 mln t in Jan-Dec 2022, whilst imports to India increased by +13.6% y-o-y to 204.0 mln t, and imports to China declined by -3.3% y-o-y to 234.9 mln t. Australia is now the second largest exporter of coal worldwide, with 28.2% of global seaborne coal exports last year, having been overtaken by Indonesia which had a 32.2% share in Jan-Dec 2022”.
“Coal shipments from Australia have drastically affected in recent years by the country being backlisted by Mainland China, previously Australia’s largest customer. That said, Australian exporters have been relatively successful in finding new markets limiting the impact on overall volumes. In 2020, Australian coal exports fell sharply by -7.8% y-o-y to 357.7 mln t, from 388.0 mln tonnes in 2019. In 2021, volumes out of Australia remained essentially flat at 358.2 mln t, or +0.1% y-o-y. In the 12 months of 2022, shipments from Australia declined further by -5.0% y-o-y to 340.1 mln tonnes. The main coal export terminals in Australia are Newcastle (137.3 mln tonnes loaded in Jan-Dec 2022), Hay Point (95.2 mln t), Gladstone (61.2 mln t), Abbot Point (32.4 mln t), Port Kembla (7.9 mln t), Brisbane (5.0 mln t), Port Hedland (0.9 mln t) The majority (51%) of coal volumes shipped from Australia in 2022 were loaded on Panamax or Post-Panamax tonnage, with 45% of volumes shipped on Capesize vessels, and 4% on Handy or Supra tonnage. There have been quite remarkable reshuffles in terms of trade patterns over the last few years, driven by political considerations”, said the shipbroker.
Banchero Costa added that “coal exports from Australia to Mainland China declined by -98.7% y-o-y in Jan-Dec 2021, to just 0.9 mln tonnes, from 70.4 mln t in 2020. In 2022, shipments from Australia to China actually ticked a bit higher, to 2.9 mln tonnes, but of course it was still a tiny fraction of the pre-2021 volumes. Pretty much the opposite happened to India. In 2021, Australia exported 68.6 mln t of coal to India, up +45.1% y-o-y, from 47.3 mln in 2020. In 2022, however, shipments from Australia to India slowed down by -21.5% y-o-y to 53.9 mln tonnes, due to a greater availability of Indonesian coal. A similar pattern was also seen to South Korea. Australia exported 62.3 mln t to Korea in 2021, up +34.6% yo-y from 46.3 mln t in 2020. In 2022, however, shipments to South Korea declined by -23.3% y-oy to 47.8 mln tonnes. The top destination however is still Japan, with 115.0 mln tonnes in 2021, up +14.6% y-o-y, and 119.4 mln tonnes in 2022, up +3.9% y-o-y. Japan is now the destination for 35.1% of Australia’s coal exports, with India 15.8%, Korea 14.1%, Taiwan 9.2% and the EU at 7.7%”, the shipbroker concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide