Shipping has begun to return to normal at Australia’s largest coal port this week after wild weather battered the Hunter Valley in late April, forcing vessels out to sea and closing rail tracks feeding the Newcastle port.
Shipments slumped to an eight-year low, according to figures published by Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS).
“They said it was a once-in-a-century storm,” a PWCS official told IHS Maritime. “I don’t know about that, but it was the biggest in my time.”
Damage to the port was limited, he said. However, train lines were down or underwater and four ships had to be secured.
“We loaded the others with stockpiles, but ran out of coal,” he said. “Last week was still very slow, but we’re back up to about normal now.”
Figures published on the PWCS website show exports spiked in December 2014 to just under 130 million tonnes before the big drop in April to below 80 million tonnes.
IHS McCloskey today reported Newcastle shipments were struggling to recover.
PWCS shipped 6.31 million tonnes, down 31.9% month on month, marking the lowest monthly volume since July 2007, according to McCloskey.
Eight years ago in June 2007, 76,741-tonne Panamax bulk carrier Pasha Bulka ignored calls to head for sea and ended up aground on the main city beach of Nobby. Regulations requiring vessels to clear the port have been tightened since the incident.
PWCS shipments were up 40% week on week to 1.15 million tonnes, McCloskey reported, citing data from the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator. This was only about half the average weekly volume of 2.16 million tonnes last year.