AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Newcastle coal queue now easing from record high

<p>Rapid queue-reduction plans for the port of Newcastle are said to be still on track, despite the loss of up to 2.8m tonnes of shiploading because of severe weather in June.</p> <p>Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) loaded 5.1m tonnes of coal in June, short of the 7.9m tonnes declared for the month, when a severe storm hit the Hunter on June 8, closing the port and flooding rail tracks and the mines.</p> <p>Much of the attention was given to the three-week salvage of the 76,781 dwt <em>Pasha Bulker</em> , which grounded on Nobby’s Beach during the storm and was eventually pulled free last week.</p> <p>The more significant impact was on the Hunter coal producers that were estimated to have lost close to $120m from the seven-day shutdown alone.</p> <p>Newcastle Port Corporation figures showed that coal ships entering the port at the start of July had waited for almost a month, part of a record queue of 79 anchored bulkers stretching south of Newcastle as far as the Central Coast.</p> <p>Despite the delays, the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Logistics Team (HVCCLT) said it was still hopeful of more than halving queues from the 68 waiting today to about 30 by the end of September.</p> <p>The team’s general manager, Anthony Pitt, said this morning (Monday, July 9) that the system was now operating at an annualised rate of 85m tonnes, but would ramp up to about 95mtpa in July.</p> <p>The system had mostly recovered from last month’s disruptions.</p> <p>&#8220There’s still a few operational issues that are affecting throughput that appear to be related to the storm, like coal quality issues that is causing coal to get stuck in the wagons, locomotive failures with wet sand in trains and a few of those sort of things,&#8221 Mr Pitt said.</p> <p>&#8220They seem to be working their way out of the system.&#8221</p> <p>The coal network had been operating at about 86mtpa in the lead up to June 8, and was still operating &#8220a few hundred thousand tonnes behind&#8221, Mr Pitt said.</p> <p>&#8220If we can get back to the these [pre storm&#93 levels, then we would have a healthy situation from a demurrage point of view on behalf of the customers,&#8221 Mr Pitt said.</p> <p>Pressured to cut the coal industry’s collective demurrage bill &#8211 estimated at more than $1m a day &#8211 the logistics team wants to cut the queue to an average of 15 later this year, which would take the system back to where in was 12 months ago.</p> <p>A queue of 15 &#8211 about five days of shiploading &#8211 would cut average waiting times to less than a week, potentially cutting demurrage costs by about 75%.</p> <br />