BIMCO: Changes ahead for coal export patterns?

Written by Nick Blenkey
Mississippi river Ship Chanellcoal exports loaded on Mississippi

M/V Capri set a Mississippi River Ship Channel draft record when it loaded 134,000 tonnes of coal exports at United Bulk Terminals on August 6. [Image: T. Parker Host]

On August 9, the Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resources Minister announced that 71 coal mining companies failed to meet their domestic market obligations, and that 48 of them are now banned from exporting coal. BIMCO notes that the ban comes into force just as the EU ban on Russian coal takes full effect and demand for non-Russian coal increases.

Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of coal. In January 2022, the country had a full coal export ban in place with the aim of protecting domestic supply. Since the ban was lifted in February, mining companies have been obligated to sell 25% of their coal in the domestic market to protect against future energy crises.
Despite legislators’ concern over shrinking domestic coal stocks, another outright ban of all coal exports remains unlikely for now, says BIMCO. Inventories in the state’s power utility company PLN remain above 4.5 million tonnes, a level considered to be secure.  

The names of the 48 mining companies have not been revealed and the Indonesia Coal Mining Association is contesting the ban.  

The announcement comes only one month after Indonesia pledged to increase coal production to help meet demand from countries that have lost supplies from Russia.   

coal export
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of coal

 “Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of coal. In 2021, the country exported 441.5 million tonnes coal equal to 31% of global coal exports. All exports are moved by ship and in 2021 were equal to 8% of global dry bulk cargo demand,” says Niels Rasmussen, Chief Shipping Analyst at BIMCO.  

 The partial Indonesian export ban coincides with the full implementation of the European Union’s ban on Russian coal. In 2021, The EU imported 39 million tonnes of coal from Russia, equal to 36% of EU coal imports. The EU’s demand for coal has increased year-to-date and is expected to increase further as the bloc turns to coal to replace missing natural gas supplies from Russia.  
“The EU’s ban on Russian coal increases demand for non-Russian supply by about 4% and a sustained partial ban of Indonesian exports will obviously not help. It makes it even more likely that India and China will buy more of their coal from Russia in the coming months. Combined, the two shifts in supply patterns will drive up average sailing distance for global coal shipments and bulk demand overall,” says Rasmussen. 


Does this  up U.S.coal export opportunities? In terms of global totals, the U.S. is a relatively  minor player, exporting just under a net 72.5 million tonnes of coal in 2021 according to U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) figures. Additionally most U.S. coal exports are of metallurgical coal, not steam coal for power generation. EIA figures for the first quarter of this year show that U.S. steam coal exports totaled just under 8 million tonnes (3.7% lower than the fourth quarter of 2021). Metallurgical coal exports totaled just over 9.5 million tonnes0 (10.4% lower than the fourth quarter of 2021).

Still, the infrastructure for U.S. coal exports is in place. T. Parker Host reports that, on August 6, its Host Agency unit coordinated the shipment of the largest amount of cargo ever loaded on the Mississippi River, when the M/V Capri loaded over 134,000 tonnes of coal from Javelin Global Commodities at United Bulk Terminals Davant, making this vessel the first to sail with a draft of 50 feet on the river.

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