South Africa's Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) exported 4.6 million mt of coal in January, tumbling 33% on-month from the 6.8 million mt shipped in December, according to the latest operating data released by the port Friday.
January export volumes are traditionally lower than December, as RBCT shareholders tend to use December to catch up on any shortfall in the annual shipping program, with all vessels that have their Notice of Readiness in December and complete loading in January counted in the port's December operating statistics, according to sources.
South African producers exporting out of RBCT are also known to ship out additional tons in December to reach annual targets and fulfill rail-or-pay agreements.
However, the exports for the month were 8.4% higher than January 2013.
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RBCT said the exports were shipped in 48 vessels during January, including 27 Capesize vessels, 12 Panamax ships and nine Handysize cargoes.
According to RBCT's export destinations breakdown, the largest portion of exports -- 27.9% or 1.3 million mt -- went to Southern Asia, which includes countries such as India and Pakistan, among others. The volume jumped 17.4% on-month.
WESTERN EUROPE RECEIVES 1.15 MILLION MT in JANUARY
The second-largest volume was exported to Western Europe, which received 1.15 million mt of coal from RBCT during January, or 25.2% of the total.
However, this was a 32.3% decrease from December.
Sustained market speculation has indicated that a large Switzerland-based trading house has continued to ship South African coal to Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp, with an ongoing number of Capesize freight fixtures seen from Richards Bay to Rotterdam since the fourth quarter of 2013.
The coal was also said to be filling supply gaps caused by a loading ban at Colombia's second-largest producer US-based Drummond, were exports stopped January 8.
Total exports to the whole of Europe amounted to 1.25 million mt, down 52% on-month and making up 27.4% of January's total shipments.
Eastern Asia slipped to the third largest importer of South African coal in January, with 945,538 mt (21%) of material shipped to countries in the region, such as China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, among others.
Monthly exports to eastern Asia plunged 50% month-on-month, most likely due to the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January.
Western Asia, including Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait among others, imported 10.9% or 499,112 mt of total RBCT exports, while exports to southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore) totaled 139,564 mt, or 3.1% of the total volume.
Eastern and western Africa imported a combined 363,337 mt (8%) of South African coal during the month, while exports to South America were 94,644 million mt, just 2.1% of the total volume.
TRANSNET COAL RAILINGS RISE 3% ON MONTH
Meanwhile, South African state-controlled operator Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) railed 5.7 million mt of coal to the 91 million mt/year terminal in 717 trains during January. The total rose 3% from December, but was 8.6% lower than the volume railed in the same month in the beginning of 2013.
This is the first month of increased TFR railings since they reached an all-time-high of 6.9 million mt in August 2013.
End-of-month stocks at the terminal increased by 22.1% on the month to 3.8 million mt, which was 7% below the amount recorded at the end of January 2013.
Stocks at the terminal reached an all-time high of 5.5 million mt at the end of September.
Spot cargoes of standard 6,000 kcal/kg NAR South African thermal coal closed in a range of $79.83-87.35/mt FOB during the month, with Platts 7-45 day assessment slipping $5.67 from the beginning of the month to close at $79.83/mt FOB on January 31.
Trading sources noted during the month that Asian demand for South African coal remained limited, with prices still too high for Indian buyers and the Lunar New Year holidays hindering Chinese interest.
--Jacqueline Holman, email@example.com
--Edited by James Leech, firstname.lastname@example.org