Dry CargoGreater China

Aussie coal ban bites, Bohai Bay becomes the world’s largest shipping parking lot

The Beijing ban on Australian coal is reshaping dry bulk trading patterns. Alphabulk reports that Australian coal exports to China slumped 30% last year. The unofficial ban was first detected in June, and became more obvious by September. More than 1,500 seafarers have found themselves caught up in the trade spat, with queues of coal carriers lying off the Chinese coastline unable to offload their cargoes for months on end.

“Seafarers are caught in the middle of a political dispute,” Ben Bailey, director of advocacy and regional engagement at The Mission to Seafarers, told Splash last month.

The Australian port of Gladstone reported a third month of no exports to China in January, marking a complete absence of coal cargoes to the country since October, Alphabulk reported.

Furthermore, no other Australian port recorded significant volumes to China in the month.

Additional purchases by India and Japan from Gladstone offset some of the losses.

While there have been some reports suggesting China will allow more Australian coal cargoes to dock, mapping data from MarineTraffic today shows Bohai Bay is the world’s largest shipping parking lot.

Bohai Bay terminals are where most coal carriers have been held up in recent months. The round circles in the image below indicate anchored ships – a problem exacerbated in recent weeks with growing boxship congestion being recorded at many terminals across the People’s Republic.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. I do not understand why those ships just don’t move on and sell or deliver elswhere. Stop destroying sailors families.

  2. Owners of bulk carriers will suffer or even go bankrupt. Confrontation between countries is really hurting the world, while Nature punish us by Covid19 because we do not take good environmental care. What is the use of arms race? Imagine a world without weapons, hence the serene and happy life for human race.

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