The Coal Trader

Queensland Coal Ship Queues Hit 2023 High

Australia’s Queensland coal ship queues have hit a year-to-date high despite higher November throughput, as Cyclone Jasper forced three of four major coal ports to suspend operations for up to four days.

Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT), Abbot Point and Gladstone collectively shipped 17.3mn t of coal in November, up from 16.38mn t in October and 16.39mn t in November 2022, according to port data. But the slow moving category 2 Cyclone Jasper off coast north Queensland has disrupted shipping in mid-December, with ship queues off the adjacent ports of DBCT and Hay Point growing to 50, the one at Gladstone up at 48, with Abbot Point at six.

Jasper is expected to cross the Queensland coast near Port Douglas on 13 December, which is 600km north of the most northerly of the Queensland ports of Abbot Point. But heavy seas and strong winds associated with the weather system stopped ship loading at Abbot Point, DBCT and Hay Point, with no ships at berth at these ports at 11am Australian Eastern Daylight-saving Time (12am GMT) on 12 December.

The anchorages at Hay Point and DBCT are being reassembled after most ships were ordered out to sea over the weekend, with first ships expected to be bought into port on the morning of 13 December, according to Maritime Safety Queensland. The last loaded vessel left these ports on 9 December, according to initial shipping data.

Abbot Point continued to dispatch ships to 10 December, despite being nearer to the cyclone’s current location, and hopes to bring its first vessel into port for loading on 12 December. Gladstone has continued to ship despite experiencing wind gusts of up to 67 km/hr over the weekend, while the other three ports had winds of around 60 km/hr.

Coal exports through Gladstone remained strong in November at 5.73mn t, but this could rise considerably in December as it has the capacity to ship 8.5mn t/month and an unusually long shipping queue to clear. Gladstone shipped more coal to China in November after a weak October, but shipments to India declined from a strong November.

Spare loading capacity could also see shipments ramp up at the 7.08mn t/yr DBCT in December from an above 2023-average of 5.37mn t in November. The port’s stockpiles are full, leading it to cancel some deliveries.

Hay Point shipments recovered to 3.19mn t in November from a six-year low of 2.15mn t in October, but is still not operating optimally since the repair of Berth 2 in October. Berth 3 returned from a month’s break to load on 19 November, only for Berth 1 to go off line.

Abbot Point shipped 3mn t in November, down from 3.24mn t in October.

Queensland coal exports (mn t)

Australian coal price comparisons ($/t)