Singapore — Australia's major metallurgical coal export terminal Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) issued a force majeure notice to customers Friday due to "deteriorating weather conditions" which have halted berthing of vessels since Tuesday.
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The port operator said in the notice that it expects berthing to resume on Sunday, but this will be reviewed daily.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology issued a notice Friday afternoon saying a tropical low system in the "northwest Coral Sea is expected to continue moving in a southeasterly direction away from the Queensland coast over the next few days."
"At this stage, the system is rated a high chance of forming into a tropical cyclone over the weekend," BOM said.
DBCT could not be reached for further comment.
DBCT has a nameplate capacity of 85 million mt/year of coal, and exports around 20% of the world's seaborne metallurgical coal.
In the latest full Australian financial year, around 80% of the 69.39 million mt of coal shipped through the terminal was metallurgical, industry sources estimate.
Asian metallurgical coal prices moved higher Friday amid a tighter spot supply of April laycan cargoes. Platts assessed Premium Low Vol FOB Australia at $163.00/mt FOB Australia, up $1.25/mt on the day.
A metallurgical coal sell side source said that "buyers may have been spooked by the delay at DBCT," and that may result in some spot demand for metallurgical coal exports out of other smaller coal terminals that have not been closed.
Bad weather drags freight market lower
The bad weather on Australia's east coast has also impacted the freight market.
Shipping freight rates are under pressure on the back of the slump in the bunker market following crude oil's 30% fall at the start of this week, a shipbroker said. "The Post-Panamax market is tanking amid thin cargo list [from east Australia]," the broker added.
At Australia's three main east coast met coal terminals – DBCT, Hay Point and Abbot Point – there are currently no ships at berth, a shipping agent told S&P Global Platts Friday, with 74 ships in total currently waiting at anchorage, the highest in three years.
There is a queue of 29 vessels at Hay Point, 31 at DBCT and 14 at Abbot Point, the agent said.
"There is a long waiting tonnage list outside the Australian loading ports, which may help reduce the tonnage supply in short term. However, the current freight market still need a healthy cargo demand to support," a ship-operator said.
Platts assessed met coal dry bulk freight East Australia-China, basis 75,000 mt, at $9.00/mt Friday, down 50 cents/mt on the day.