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Stricter clearance procedures for Australian coal import at Chinese ports: sources

Highlights

Custom clearance to take about 3 months

Longer delays deter buying interest

Singapore — Various Chinese ports have implemented stricter clearance procedures for Australian cargoes, further dampening demand for Australian thermal coal, market sources said Tuesday.

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Custom authorities in Fangcheng in Guangxi, south China, were said to have held meetings on Tuesday and listed directives on handling Australian cargoes, according to sources.

Among the points highlighted during the meeting, cargo discharge will be limited during workdays, while "radioactive tests" will be conducted for every 500 mt of coal unloaded.

Custom clearance time can be expected to be about 3 months, according to market sources.

Delays for Australian cargoes had been observed since beginning of the year, with custom clearance taking about 40 days.

Cargoes of other origin have not been affected so far, while market sources are expecting other ports to implement similar policy.

There were talks about an import ban on Australian coal at Chinese northeastern ports about two weeks ago, but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman had denied a ban was being imposed.

Instead, he said, Chinese customs are conducting checks to ensure the coal meet environmental standards.

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S&P Global Platts reported Friday that China's General Administration of Customs has ordered an immediate halt to discharges of Australian thermal coal at Chinese ports.

Market experts say Australian cargoes could be diverted to India.

The expected long delays have continued to deter buying interest for Australian thermal coal in China, despite a wider price arbitrage.

The price of Australian 5,500 kcal/kg NAR grade of coal was assessed $60.60/mt FOB Newcastle Tuesday, up from $60/mt on January 2.

The price of domestic spot cargoes of the same grade was assessed at Yuan 635/mt FOB Qinhuangdao, up from Yuan 580/mt on January 2.

-- Hui Min Lee, hui.min.lee@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com