BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance’s declaration of force majeure on the Hay Point Coal Terminal might not see the port in full operation for up to six weeks, adding to the wet season’s toll on the state’s coal supply chain.
Setbacks include production cuts and delays at various mines, a train derailment in the Blackwater rail corridor last month, a power outage at Hay Point and the temporary closure of Gladstone’s port.
Macquarie analysts have forecast a total loss of 6-6.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal exports in the March quarter and are not ruling out near-term prices of $300/t as a supply shortfall approaches with pig iron production “currently booming”
While Prime Infrastructure’s Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal reopened unscathed after a weekend closure, Australia’s leading met coal port has not yet reached its 85Mt per annum nameplate capacity, exporting 32.1Mt in the last six months of 2009.
The analysts noted there was already more than 6Mt stockpiled at the port and expected BMA’s force majeure at the nearby Hay Point terminal to result in production cuts at the Poitrel and South Walker Creek mines.
Macquarie said there were 30 ships or about 2.4Mt of ship capacity anchored off Hay Point as of a week ago.
With a 60-ship queue at Dalrymple Bay, another 30 ships were due to arrive next week.
“While we believe a further six-week closure of Hay Point is a worst case scenario, and the company will endeavour to return one berth to operation as soon as possible, further losses are inevitable,” Macquarie said in a commodities report today.
“We now expect Queensland exports to total roughly 33.5-34 million tonnes this quarter compared to an expectation of 39-40 million tonnes, while a further 1-2 million tonnes of losses will evidence in 2Q [June quarter] figures.”
Noting spot prices for coking coal were around $230/t, the analysts did not see $300/t as out of reach – a 30% increase.
With BHP recently moving into quarterly pricing arrangements for its met coal, Macquarie has tipped stronger price rises for the next quarterly settlements, but also lower Chinese imports.
“Given that Chinese domestic prices continue to hover below $200/t on a delivered China basis, the differential between domestic coal and imported coal has been rising strongly,” the bank said.
“Therefore, in the short term, a further slowdown in Chinese met coal imports looks likely.”