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China launches fresh restrictions for thermal coal imports: sources

Highlights

Caofeidian, Rizhao ports affected

Limited impact on seaborne prices

Singapore — China has reportedly launched fresh restrictions on thermal coal imports this year, with tightened customs declarations at certain ports effective Friday, market sources said.

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Caofeidian port in northern China and Rizhao port in the eastern part of China were reported to have tightened custom declarations for coal imports effective January 17, which is being interpreted by the market as a sign that local ports are looking to regulate imports for local trading companies in 2020, market sources said.

Certain market participants in China received notices from port agents that users of Caofeidian port can not declare imported shipments at other ports.

However, this may not have an immediate impact on imported cargo prices, the sources said, adding that Caofeidian port is primarily a domestic coal hub located in the northern Hebei province.

Normal operations at Rizhao

A south China-based trader said Rizhao port in east China was operating as per normal and did not see any significant changes amid the fresh import controls.

Although market sources said that Chinese import restrictions were relaxed after the New Year, the actual clearance process has not been very smooth, another South China-based trader said.

Qinzhou port and Xiamen port in southeastern China also had long vessel queues awaiting custom clearance, he said.

However, he was unaware of any import controls at other Chinese ports.

A southeastern China-based trader said he has confirmed with traders at Rizhao port that Chinese end-users were unaffected.

"Only imported coal for industrial use might be affected," he said.

"Now, since there are fewer number of ships for discharge in China as buyers fade away from the market ahead of the Lunar New Year, the announcement on port restrictions might not affect the discharge rate after all," an Indonesia-based producer said.

Officials at Caofidien were not immediately available for comment, while Rizhao port declined comment.