Exports at South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) hit a record 75.4 million t in 2015, according to IHS, an increase of 4% on 2014. Yet the country’s total coal exports are unlikely to rise significantly with non-RBCT shipments dropping by at least half since 2014.
“Despite this record growth in export tonnage of thermal coal through RBCT, it is not a sign that South Africa is likely to see significant growth of coal exports in 2016,” said Andrew Well, Managing Editor at IHS Energy. “With South African coal prices languishing at neat seven-year lows, competitor export terminals […] will struggle to regain market share in 2016.”
The dominance of RBCT over South Africa’s coal exports is also hitting junior miners, which have to sell their product to RBCT shareholders to gain access to the port, which is the cheapest route to export.
“Even though more competitive transport and handling charges have been introduced by other port operators […] the reduction in mining margins due to the 27% decline in coal prices in the past 12 months means that the exporters want to shave every cent they can from transport and logistics costs,” Wells added.
This means that smaller export terminals – including Richards Bay Dry Bulk Terminal (DBT) – are unlikely to have significant success in expanding their throughput. DBT is currently thought to be shipping about half of its nameplate capacity of 3 million tpa – despite plans to expand to 4 million tpa in 2016.
RBCT’s growth comes on the back of improved rail performance by Transnet Rail Freight, as well as strong demand from India for South African coal. About 36 million t of South African coal was shipped through RBCT in 2015 from 30 million t in 2014.
A decision by the Indian government to raise its ash specifications on imported coal has boosted demand for South Africa’s high-ash thermal coal at the expense of Indonesian producers, which cut their coal exports by 50 million t in 2015, according to IHS.
Indian coal imports are however expected to fall 10% in the 2016 – 2017 financial year, meaning RBCT’s continued strength will depend on whether South Africa’s coal exports can continue to outperform those from Indonesia.
Edited by Jonathan Rowland.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/handling/26012016/coal-exports-through-rbct-up-in-2016-111/