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Coal exports tumble at Hampton Roads

World Coal,

Coal exports through the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, slumped by 17% last year from 2013, as low seaborne prices and more robust domestic demand discouraged US shippers.

Combined thermal and metallurgical coal exports from Hampton Roads fell to 41.1 million short t (37.3 million t in 2014 from 49.7 million short t a year earlier, the Virginia Maritime Association reported. December loadings dropped to 2.8 million short t from 3.4 million short t in the same month of 2013.

According to Argus Media, loadings over 2014 were the lowest since 2010, when Hampton Roads exported 32.8 million short t of coal.

Exports from Norfolk Southern's Lamberts Point terminal fell to 16.8 million short t from 20.9 million  short t in 2013. Loadings from Kinder Morgan's Pier IX were off by about the same percentage, declining to 10.8 million short t from almost 13.2 million short t a year earlier. Nearby Dominion Terminal Associates' export shipments dropped to 13.6 million short t from 15.6 million short t.

Weak prices and an abundance of coal in international markets have cut US exports. Argus' FOB Hampton Roads assessments for 12,000 Btu/lb, less than 1% sulfur thermal coal averaged US$83.84/t in 2014, around minimum costs to get Central Appalachian coal to the port. But delivered prices in the key export market of Europe averaged only US$75/t, shutting the arbitrage window for US thermal coal in the region.

US metallurgical coal markets, meanwhile, softened amid competition from Australian exporters and slowing growth in China's steel production. Low-volatile metallurgical coal FOB Hampton Roads averaged US$115.93/t last year, down by 17% from 2013, according to Argus assessments.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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