The Coal Trader

Coal News for Mining & Investing Professionals

Global Coal Trade Rebounds to Pre-COVID Levels

Global coal trade has seen a robust resurgence, achieving pre-COVID levels in recent months, as evidenced by vessel tracking data from AXS Marine. Throughout 2023, global seaborne coal loadings escalated by 5.8% year-over-year, totaling 1,339.5 million tonnes. This positive momentum extended into the first five months of 2024, with an increase of 2.5% compared to the same period last year, reaching 556.8 million tonnes.

Indonesia and Australia, major players in the coal market, reported significant increases in their coal exports. Indonesia’s exports surged by 8.2% year-over-year to 215.5 million tonnes, while Australia witnessed a 4.9% rise to 142.1 million tonnes. However, not all regions experienced growth; Russia’s exports fell sharply by 16.2% to 67.2 million tonnes, and South Africa saw a slight decline of 1.4%.

On the import side, Mainland China and India demonstrated strong demand, with imports rising by 10.1% and 11.0% respectively. In contrast, Japan and South Korea each reported a 7.4% decrease, and the European Union experienced a significant drop of 43.6%.

Australia’s coal industry, the second-largest globally, faced challenges due to political tensions with Mainland China, its former largest customer, which caused significant shifts in trade patterns. Following a dramatic decline in exports to China in 2021, 2023 saw a normalization of relations and a substantial increase in shipments. Conversely, exports to India decreased due to the increased availability of Indonesian coal.

Despite these obstacles, Australian exporters successfully diversified their markets, which helped stabilize overall volumes. After a decline in exports in previous years, 2023 marked a rebound with a 4.6% increase. The main coal export terminals in Australia, including Newcastle and Gladstone, played pivotal roles in this recovery, with the majority of coal volumes loaded on Panamax or Post-Panamax vessels, indicating a specific logistical preference in the region. Australia’s coal export destinations now vary, with Japan remaining the top destination despite a decline, while China, India, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the EU also represent significant markets.

This resurgence and realignment in the coal trade not only reflect the industry’s adaptability but also underscore the ongoing global dependence on coal as an energy source.

Source: The Coal Hub