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Port of Vancouver coal exports fall to 11-year low in 2020

Highlights

Coal exports fall 14.5% on year in 2020

December exports climb to six-month high

Houston — Coal exports out of the Port of Vancouver fell to an 11-year low 31.55 million mt in 2020, down 14.5% from 36.91 million in 2019 and the lowest since 30.33 million mt exported in 2019, data from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority showed March 3.

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The port, which includes Westshore Terminals and Neptune Bulk Terminals, shipped out a six-month high 2.87 million mt in December, up 11.3% from November, but 23.2% lower year on year. It was the most exports in a month since 2.9 million mt in June.

Metallurgical coal exports totaled a nine-month high 2.13 million mt in December, up 6.2% on the month, but down 16.4% from December 2019.

Thermal coal exports also rose to 719,536 mt, up 23.8% from November but 39.9% lower than the year-ago month.

The remaining 29,963 mt exported in December was unspecified coal, up from 168 mt in November and 2,868 mt in the year-ago month.

Metallurgical exports made up 73.9% of the total coal exports, while thermal shipments made up just 25%, compared with 67.9% and 32%, respectively, a year ago.

For the year, metallurgical exports were at a 10-year low 21.55 million mt, down 15% on the year, while thermal shipments fell 13% year on year to a four-year low 9.74 million mt.

Met exports to Japan fall, thermal shipments rise

Over 56% of the total exports in 2020 were shipped to Japan and South Korea, as 9.34 million mt went to South Korea and 8.46 million mt to Japan.

Japan was exported a 10-year low 4.53 million mt of metallurgical coal in 2020, down 22.8% on the year, while South Korea and China were shipped 4.29 million mt and 3.96 million mt, down 11.4% and up 27.5%, respectively, on the year. It was the lowest met coal exports to Japan since 4.29 million mt in 2011 and the fewest to South Korea since 4.26 million mt in 2012.

Over 5.05 million mt of thermal coal was exported to South Korea, down 22.8% on the year. However, exports to Japan and Chile both rose to 3.93 million mt and 363,429 mt, respectively, up 20% and 53.3% from 2019 levels. The 3.93 million mt shipped to Japan were the highest thermal coal exports in a year in over 11 years.

Thermal exports to South Korea and Japan made up 92.2% of the total thermal exports in 2020, up from 87.7% a year earlier.

Westshore, which is the largest coal export terminal on the west coast in North America, takes coal from British Columbia and Alberta, as well as the Powder River Basin and Montana through Seattle as a port and rail transfer point. The Neptune terminal, which handles metallurgical coal, went through expansions and was shut for five months through September 2020.