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Australia's Dalrymple Bay, Hay Point, Abbot Point coal terminals shut ahead of cyclone

Singapore — At least three coal terminals have shut as a tropical cyclone bears down on the coast of Australia's Queensland state, a spokeswoman for North Queensland Bulk Ports told S&P Global Platts Monday.

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"In preparation for Tropical Cyclone Debbie, the ports of Mackay, Hay Point and Abbot Point have been closed until further notice," she said.

The latest advice from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology shows Tropical Cyclone Debbie off the coast of north Queensland.

The bureau upgraded it from a category 2 to a category 3 during the day Monday, with sustained winds near the center of 150 kmh and wind gusts to 205 kmh. It is expected to make landfall as a category 4 tropical cyclone between Ayr and Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay, on Tuesday morning, it said.

Category 5 is the highest on the bureau's scale.

"Areas of heavy rain with the potential to cause severe flash flooding are expected to develop about parts of the northern and central Queensland coast and adjacent inland areas later today and continue through Tuesday," the bureau said in a statement.

"Widespread daily rainfall totals of 150 to 250 mm, with isolated falls of 500 mm, are also likely to lead to major river flooding over a broad area next week, and a flood watch is current for coastal catchments between Rollingstone and Gladstone, extending inland to the Upper Flinders, Thomson and Barcoo catchments," it added.



Officials at the Port of Gladstone, 430 km south of Hay Point which also exports coal, were not immediately available for comment.

Hay Point is home to the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance-operated Hay Point Coal Terminal and the Queensland state government-owned common user Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal. Abbot Point, 250 km to the north, also has a coal terminal.

Logistics sources close to DBCT said operations there ceased late Saturday due to strong winds related to the cyclone. The regional harbor master closed the Port of Hay Point Sunday, the sources said.


NO VESSELS ALONGSIDE TERMINALS


According to a ship agency source, no vessels are currently alongside the coal terminals at Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay, Abbot Point or Mackay Harbour. Eighteen dry bulk vessels had arrived at Dalrymple Bay prior to the closure, while Hay Point and Abbot Point had 17 vessels and one vessel respectively.

The ship agency said coal mines were currently operating normally, but could be affected when the cyclone crosses the coast some time late Monday or Tuesday morning.

"All these ships that had to leave the ports have to come back in and will have to organize themselves," said a shipowner source based in Australia, adding that ships due to arrive later may have to wait for these to clear. "This will create some congestion and this will only help support the rates," the shipowner said.

"Maybe this is why we are not seeing a lot of stems from east coast Australia [for spot dates; shippers] are being more cautious," said a shipbroker source based in Singapore.

"I already see many orders for second half April, so need to see if these laycans will be postponed or continue as planned," said a ship-operator source based in Singapore.

Queensland is yet to experience a cyclone this year after a quiet season and has not seen a cyclone of this scale since Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi in 2011, the bureau said Sunday.

The Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay and Abbot Point coal terminals exported a combined 11.4 million mt of coal in February, and 144.19 million mt over 2016, NQBP data showed.

--Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

--Shriram Sivaramakrishnan, shriram.krishnan@spglobal.com

--Edited by Wendy Wells, wendy.wells@spglobal.com