Dry CargoGreater China

Coal carrier queue eases off northern China

Chinese buyers of Australian coal are finding new markets to sell their banned substances, helping ease the ship queues in northern China that have stranded more than 1,100 seafarers this winter.

Beijing has banned a range of Australian products including coal after Canberra called for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Many coal carriers have been left stranded at Chinese anchorages, some since June last year.

The huge discount of Australian coal must give the authorities some pause for thought

Latest data from Braemar ACM shows that at the end of last week there were 19 capesizes and 47 panamaxes waiting to discharge Australian coal in China, totalling 7.5m dwt. This marks a fall of nine ships versus the previous week. These vessels were waiting outside Chinese ports for 180 days on average, and most arrived before the ban was imposed.

“With authorities signalling that the formal ban will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Chinese buyers of these cargoes have sought to sell them into other markets,” Braemar ACM noted in an update to clients.

Ships have been redirected to a range of countries including Vietnam, India and Malaysia, amongst others, as congestion in China starts to wind down.

There was one cargo discharged in China, which had been waiting since October 2020, with some media reports suggesting Beijing is wavering on the coal ban.

“With domestic coal prices remaining elevated, calls from steel mills and power utilities to ease restrictions have mounted, which may have pressured economic planners to clear this cargo. As this pressure continues, we may start to see more ships head to discharge, freeing up some of the tonnage currently waiting,” Braemar ACM suggested.

Commenting on a potential easing of the restrictions, Arrow Research suggested in a note to clients yesterday, “There is reason to believe this ban is unsustainable and will eventually ease somewhat.”

China was importing roughly 30% of Australian coking coal prior to the ban, and sourcing those tonnes elsewhere is proving difficult and expensive, Arrow pointed out.

A tiny trickle of Australian coal cargoes is still arriving in China, Arrow observed, with traders confident the import arbitrage will cover the demurrage.

“Clearly the huge discount of Australian coal must give the authorities some pause for thought,” Arrow posited.

China’s import data is showing increased coal imports from Mongolia, Canada and Russia to make up for the lack of Australian coal.

Charterers have been coming under pressure to resolve the dry bulk standoff on China’s coastline that has stranded so many seafarers.
Shipmanagers, shipping associations and seafarer unions have been urging government and relevant shipping parties to fix the stranded crew issue.

“Seafarers are caught in the middle of a political dispute… It is vital that politics is put aside and that the human cost of these crises is recognised. The seafarers must be allowed to operate or be repatriated,” Ben Bailey, director of advocacy and regional engagement at The Mission to Seafarers, told Splash earlier this month.

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. Australia’s government is acting like nothing has happened. Everything is normal. What is the Australian government covering. why aren’t the facts coming out. clear surely there’s a cover up of an economic disaster abd oversupply in Australia and the economy must be suffering . why is the government covering up or making headline news saying our coal and iron ore everything else is in huge demand around the world when you fact it’s not. .

  2. Hi Anthony,
    I read your post with interest. Are you actually brain dead or simply a fan of Chinese Government sponsored bullying?

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