AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Hunter logistics team forecasts queue of 90 ships

<p>The squeeze on the Hunter coal chain could worsen over coming months as logistics providers prepare for a queue of 90 vessels at Newcastle by the end of March.</p> <p>But Hunter Valley Coal Chain Logistics Team (HVCCLT) chairman Graham Davidson warns that the figure is dependant on Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) approval for coal producers to move back to a capacity balancing system.</p> <p>Mr Davidson said figure was fluctuating in what were &#8220strange times&#8221 for the coal chain.</p> <p>&#8220The variability of the forecast is higher due to unusual times and the waiting on the ACCC decision,&#8221 Mr Davidson said.</p> <p>The 90 ship prediction was forecast in the logistic’s team’s latest report, which calculated the present queue at a record 73 ships. It expected that figure to fall to 63 by mid-March but then to grow to 90 by the end of the month.</p> <p>The team forecast 86 ships to be waiting off the port at the end of April. </p> <p>But Mr Davidson told <em>Lloyd’s List DCN</em> this morning (Friday, March 2) that he did not believe the queue would reach 90 by month’s end.</p> <p>Mr Davidson said that the length of the queue might have been a factor in a drop-off in expected arrivals in March.</p> <p>Coal chain capacity was limited to 6.6m tonnes in February, down from 7.6m tonnes in January.</p> <p>The limited capacity meant the port loaded coal into ships at a rate of 81.6mtpa for the month, slightly better than the total of 80.3mtpa in 2005&#4706.</p> <p>Declared capacity will increase to 7.1m tonnes in March, but coal producers have collectively notified logistics providers that they want up to 8m tonnes of coal to be moved.</p> <p>Mr Davidson said the drop-off in nominated vessel arrivals in March would see the queue maintained in the mid-60s through the month, but the projected queue was still difficult to accurately predict due to the possible re-introduction of the capacity balancing system.</p> <p>The trend for the vessel queue was down, Mr Davidson said.</p> <p>There were variations of up to 20% in the queue predictions because customers have to give PWCS only 14 days’ notice.</p> <p>The port has battled to contain the queue, which began to surge late last year and has been complicated by scheduled system shutdowns and an unusually high vessel arrival rate.</p> <p>The previous record of 56 ships, set three years ago, was broken during February.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Macarthur Coal conceded it would struggle to reach its target of 4.5m tonnes of coal production this year.</p> <p>Smaller shipping allocations and extensive queues at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT), combined with wet weather last month, is expected to put the coal company behind its forecast target.</p> <p>Macarthur this week reported a 48% fall in its half-year earnings to $42m.</p> <p>The company used to ship some of its product through the port of Abbot Point, but a drop in coal prices has forced it to remain operating at DBCT.</p> <p>DBCT and Hay Point Coal Services had a combined vessel queue of 48 at the start of the week. </p> <br />