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Japan’s December coking coal imports at 7-year high

30 Jan 2018 11:11 GMT
Japan's December coking coal imports at 7-year high

Singapore, 30 January (Argus) — Japanese coking coal imports climbed to a seven-year peak in December as steel producers shifted cargoes ahead of the January-March cyclone season in Australia, after a storm last year triggered a supply crunch and price rally that cut deep into profit margins.

Japan imported 7.52mn t of coking coal in December, up by 21.4pc from the previous month. Imports in December were also up by 16.1pc from 6.48mn t from the same month last year, according to finance ministry data.

Total Japanese coking coal imports in 2017 were 71.86mn t, down by 2.8pc from 73.96mn t last year. Met coke imports fell by 48.8pc year-on-year to 1.15mn t.

Australia remained the largest coking coal exporter to Japan in December with 3.64mn t, up by 39.5pc from in November. Exports from Queensland's Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal rebounded to 5.84mn t in December from a six-month low of 5.18mn t the previous month as port congestion and vessel queues subsided.

"A lot of November loading dates for cargoes became December laycan amid the high congestion," a Japanese trader said. "Imports were also high in December because Japanese mills learned from Cyclone Debbie to build stocks before of the new year."

Japanese imports of Canadian coking coal rebounded by 28.7pc to 765,126t in December from the previous month. December imports from the US fell by 19.8pc to 492,100t over the same period.

Shipments from Russia in December rose by 69.9pc to 316,704t from the previous month, while imports from Colombia climbed by 5.5pc to 261,438t. Volumes from Mozambique fell by 6.9pc to 105,658t. Japan also imported 19,800t of coking coal from China.

Indonesia accounted for about 25pc of Japan's coking coal imports in November with 1.73mn t, but much of this is mislabelled low-ash thermal coal that is used by steel producers at their captive power plants.

The Argus assessment for premium hard low-volatile coking coal averaged $240.37/t fob Australia in December, up from $186.09/t fob Australia from the November average.

Japanese metallurgical coke imports in December fell by 28pc to 136,137t from the previous month. Japan imported 119,050t of met coke from China and 16,551t from South Korea.