China to streamline iron ore import inspections

  • : Metals
  • 20/05/20

China will streamline inspections of iron ore imports at its ports to "further optimise" port operations and facilitate trade effective from 1 June, its general administration of customs (GAC) said today.

Iron ore imports into the country currently require a Chinese inspection and quarantine (CIQ) certificate. New procedures from 1 June will allow importers and agents without a CIQ certificate to apply for an inspection by customs. Customs will carry out on-site sampling and laboratory testing and issue the CIQ certificate after the cargoes pass on-site inspection, GAC said.

Customs will directly release iron ore cargoes that already have a CIQ certificate, but they will still have to go through the usual on-site inspection that includes radioactive detection, quarantine treatment of foreign inclusions and investigation of suspected or adulterated solid waste, GAC said.

The new procedures will simplify the process and reduce fees, a Beijing-based iron ore trader said. There is no change to normal inspections and the CIQ certificate is required for transactions, so it is hard to say what effect the new procedures will have on the market, a Hebei-based trader said.

The new procedures come as the spread of Covid-19 tightens seaborne iron ore supply and trade tensions heat up between China and Australia.

Brazilian mining firm Vale's production fell sharply last year, and a recovery in shipments this year has stalled to send premiums for its iron ore to near one-year highs, with the spread of the virus in Brazil adding to risks.

Australian producers are ready to ramp up production if Brazilian supply is disrupted, but soured relations with China have created trade risks. China has added tariffs on Australian barley and is showing signs that it may ramp up curbs on Australian coking coal imports. China has used quality inspections to curb coking coal imports, but it has few alternatives for iron ore as Australia is its biggest iron ore supplier.

China imported over 1bn t of iron ore in 2019.

Australia accounted for more than half of the global 1.76bn t supply in 2019 at 836mn t, followed by Brazil at 473mn t, according to Australian government data.

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