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Cyclone Iris closes Queensland coal ports

03 Apr 2018 06:11 (+01:00 GMT)
Cyclone Iris closes Queensland coal ports

Sydney, 3 April (Argus) — The Queensland coal ports of Abbot Point, Hay Point and the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) have all been closed and ships ordered out to sea as Cyclone Iris moves down the east coast of Australia.

Shipping from the three ports, which have a combined capacity of 190mn t/yr, is likely to be affected until 6 April, as the slow moving system remains offshore northeast Queensland.

The cyclone has intensified to a category two cyclone and is predicted to become category three by tomorrow afternoon, before easing to a category one on 6 April, according to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM).

The harbourmaster has closed all three ports and ships are moving out to sea to avoid the cyclone. The more southerly ports of Gladstone and Brisbane remain open, with ships in both ports being loaded this afternoon. The 102mn t/yr capacity Gladstone coal port, which also hosts three LNG plants, does not expect that its operations will be affected by the cyclone based on current models of the cyclone's future movements by the BoM. The cyclone is expected to remain offshore and inland coal mines should only be affected by flooding caused by associated rainfall.

The coal rail network is most vulnerable at the coast where flooding associated with Cyclone Debbie cut deliveries to ports for up to a month in April last year. The Black Mountain area, where significant landslides following Cyclone Debbie cut rail deliveries to Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay, is close to the coast and has received more than 100mm of rain in the past 24 hours. Aurizon worked to shore up this area in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.

Cyclone Debbie sent premium hard low-volatile coking coal prices surging to $304.25/t fob Australia. They eased to $137/t by mid-June. But in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie several coal producers tried to push additional coal out from their overflowing stocks, which coincided with port maintenance and led to congestion later in the year. Prices rebounded to $261/t in late December, after ship queues at DBCT grew to 47 earlier in the month and spot cargoes were delayed. They have since eased to $193/t but early reports suggest that Cyclone Iris is already pushing prices higher.

DBCT had 24 ships at anchor ahead of the closure of the port, which is slightly above the 18-20 that is considered normal. Coal shipments from Hay Point, Dalrymple Bay and Gladstone were all depressed in February compared with a year earlier but firmed up at Abbot Point. The shipping data for March should be available later this week.