Last year the USA lost 21mt seaborne coal trade with thermal down 12.5mt(-35 per cent yoy) at 24mt and met down 9.5mt(-21 per cent yoy) at 35mt. To date demand for its coal is at best flat though as a greater proportion of current sales are heading to Asia and the sub-Continent, changes in coal trading patterns are impacting the wider dry bulk market. Central to these changes has been China’s decision not to buy any coal from Australia for the past nine months. Due to this high-level decision, China has been forced to source metcoal in particular from other countries, of which the USA has one beneficiary. So in 2020 US exported 1.6mt metcoal to China most in the second half of the year; whereas In Q1 2021 alone the USA exported 2.1mt metcoal to China as well as 0.4mt thermal (from virtually zero in 2020).
But though China has now become USA’s number one export market for metcoal, overall USA metcoal exports has fallen yoy in Q1 by 1.3mt to 9.1mt as other Asian countries have taken advantage of more readily available Australian product; thus USA exports to India and Japan are both down 0.4mt at 0.7mt whilst shipments to South Korea have fallen by a massive 0.8mt(-80 per cent yoy) at a mere 0.2mt. Other sharp falls in Q1 metcoal shipments include Brazil (down 0.4mt at 1.4mt), Ukraine (down 0.4mt to 0.6mt) and Turkey where exports have almost halved at 0.2mt though in this instance Turkey increasingly sources metcoal from the nearby new Russian installation at Taman in the Black Sea.
The picture is somewhat different with USA thermal coal shipments where exports are up 0.7mt yoy at 9.1mt with high-quality anthracite from east coast ports proving especially popular. In contrast to met, thermal coal shipments to India are up 0.6mt at 3.8mt and up 0.3mt at 0.7mt to Japan. Only South Korea down 0.5mt at 1.1mt has imported significantly less thermal coal in Q1. There has also been a partial recovery in some trans-Atlantic trades with The Netherlands doubling imports in Q1 to 0.8mt whilst comparatively big rises to Egypt (up 0.3mt to 0.45mt) and Morocco ahead by 0.13mt at 0.3mt have also been evident.
Clearly changing demand for USA coal is impacting dry bulk markets as shipments to India and the Far East at 10mt in Q1 (up 8 per cent yoy) now surpass traditional Atlantic trades (now down to 8.3mt in Q1 having been as high as 14.1mt as recently as Q1 2019). Not only has this development provided greater tonne: mile demand but with longer haul shipments, a greater proportion of cargo is now being carried by the larger vessel sectors. Thus in Q1 coal shipments in Capesize are ahead by 1.1mt (+36 per cent yoy) at 4.2mt and Post Panamax up 0.6mt at 2.7mt(+ 30 per cent yoy) whilst shipments in Supramax(down 0.6mt at 4.8mt) and Panamax (minus 0.8mt at 6.5mt) have decreased around 11 per cent yoy.