China Slows Australian Coal Imports as Beijing Denies Ban

AUD  USD Sinks as China's Dalian Port Bans Australian Coal Imports

Customs at China's northern port of Dalian has banned imports of Australian coal and will cap overall coal imports from all sources to the end of 2019 at 12 million tonnes.

Chinese sources apparently revealed to S&P Global Platts as early as Wednesday this week that a meeting of Chinese port officials, held that day near Dalian port, decided that only cargoes from Indonesia and Russian Federation would be allowed into five northern ports.

A Chinese media steel industry website says that China will obtain most of its coal imports in 2019 from Russian Federation and Indonesia, reports Sydney Morning Herald.

Hence, the customs administration has stepped up environment and safety checks on foreign cargoes, Geng said.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he was asking Australia's ambassador in Beijing to seek clarification about the Reuters report.

But he said China was applying its rules equally to all countries and wasn't discriminating against Australia.

China is the largest buyer of Australian coal, taking 89 million tonnes past year, worth A$15 billion ($10.7 billion), according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It typically takes about five to 20 days.

However, Mr Dhar said the message Chinese officials are sending is the worry.

"Use of more high sulfur (1.8% total sulfur) premium HCCs such as Luilin #9, blended with Mongolian second tier HCCs such as the #3 product to produce a tier 1 coke".

A manager at Beibu Gulf Port Group, which operates the Fangchang port and two other harbours in southern Guangxi region, said on Friday the port had no ban on Australian coal.

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"Australians do a lot of trade with our giant neighbour to the north, however, we should be calm about this move".

In response to the news on China's Dalian port restricting coal imports, Wood Mackenzie's experts provide the following commentaries.

The editorial also explicitly mentioned the Huawei ban, saying Australia was putting its relationship with China at risk.

BHP chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said while delays had been experienced in getting both metallurgical coal and thermal coal into China recently, he did not believe it was political.

That move not only pushed up seaborne coking coal prices due to surging demand from China, but also resulted in buyers establishing longer-term business relationships with domestic miners to guarantee their respective supply.

"This is not the first time that on occasion local ports make decisions about these matters", he told reporters in Auckland, where he is meeting with his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern.

"The potential political nature of this targeted ban after a number of bilateral issues have surfaced. may be reminiscent of the impediments to Mongolia's coal exports to China after the Dalai Lama visit in 2016", US bank Citi said on Friday in a note.

Birmingham said Australia was working hard to get clarity around China's policy positions and to give confidence and certainty to Australian coal companies.

"I wouldn't jump to conclusions". The high quality of seaborne coal, and difficulties securing alternative coals domestically, should insulate coal exporters from much deeper cuts, despite strong signals from China. "We have to wait to see what the underlying reasons are", he said at a parliamentary hearing in Sydney.

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