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The trend of increasing coal imports both globally, but also from the EU has continued unabated during the first quarter of 2023. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “global coal trade has really picked up pace in recent months, and is now fully back to pre-Covid levels. In Jan-Mar 2023, total global seaborne coal loadings increased by a whooping +20.5% y-o-y to 310.8 mln t (excluding cabotage), admittedly from a fairly low 258.0 mln t in the same period of 2022. This was also higher than the 270.9 mln t loaded in 1Q 2021, and the 292.0 mln t in 1Q 2020. It was just a shade below the 312.3 mln t loaded in (pre-Covid) 1Q 2019. In Jan-Mar 2023, exports from Indonesia increased by +61.3% y-o-y to 106.5 mln t, whilst from Australia were down -5.0% y-o-y to 80.7 mln t, from Russia were up +23.8% y-o-y to 44.5 mln t, and from the USA increased by +28.8% y-o-y. Seaborne coal imports into Mainland China surged by +101.4% y-o-y to 77.9 mln t in Jan-Mar 2023, whilst imports to India increased by +14.9% y-o-y to 47.7 mln t, and imports to Japan by +0.9% y-o-y to 44.5 mln t”.

According to Banchero Costa, “the European Union is now the fifth largest seaborne importer of coal in the world, after China, India, Japan and South Korea. In 2022, the EU accounted for 9.8% of global seaborne coal shipments. The EU’s seaborne coal imports in the 12 months of 2022 surged by +33.8% y-o-y to 116.5 mln tonnes. This followed an equally strong increase of +30.1% y-o-y in 2021, when the total was 87.1 mln t. Europe accelerated its coal imports last year as a direct reaction to the threat of a reduction in gas supply from Russia, reversing a long term trend in cutting down on coal use. Previous years saw a negative trend, with European coal imports declining by -32.9% y-o-y in 2020, by -18.3% yo-y in 2019, by -7.6% y-o-y in 2018, as European countries progressively abandoned coal as a source of energy and embraced natural gas and renewables”.

The shipbroker said that “in the first 3 months of 2023, coal imports into the EU further increased by +15.1% y-o-y to 28.4 mln tonnes, again the highest since the 30.3 mln t in 1Q 2019. In terms of sources of the shipments, Europe was and still now remains heavily dependant on Russia. In 2021, as much as 44% of the EU’s seaborne coal imports were sourced from Russia. In 2022, as a result of the war in Ukraine, this proportion declined to 18%. In 1Q 2023 this went further down to 3.6% In Jan-Dec 2022, coal imports to the EU from Russia declined by -45.7% yo-y to 20.9 mln tonnes, pushing Russia down to only the third largest supplier to the EU”.

“The most important supplier to Europe in 2022 was the USA, accounting for 20.5% of Europe’s imports. In 2022, volumes surged by +83.0% y-o-y to 23.9 mln t. The second largest supplier to Europe is Australia, accounting for 19.7% of the EU’s imports in 2022. In 2022, imports from Australia increased +42.3% y-o-y to 20.9 mln t. In fourth place was Colombia, with a 14.3% share of Europe’s coal imports. In 2022, 16.7 mln tonnes were imported from Colombia to the EU, up +88.7% y-o-y. In fifth place was South Africa, with a 12.1% share of Europe’s coal imports. In 2022, the EU imported 14.1 mln t from S Africa, up +593.5% y-o-y from just 2.0 mln t in 2021. Another 5.2 mln t were shipped from Indonesia to the EU in 2022, up +705.4% y-o-y. In 1Q 2023, the share of USA exports surged further to 26.2%. In Jan-Mar 2023, the EU imported 7.4 mln t from the USA, up +74.2% yo-y from 4.3 mln tin 1Q 2022. From Australia, volumes surged by +97.6% y-o-y in 1Q 2023 to 6.6 mln t, from 3.3 mln t in 1Q 2022. Volumes from Colombia to the EU went up by +58.6% y-o-y to 5.5 mln t in 1Q 2023. From South Africa it was +564.7% yo-y to 3.9 mln t, from 0.6 mln t in 1Q 2022. From Russia to the EU it went down by -88.9% y-o-y to just 1.0 mln t in Jan-Mar 2023, from 9.1 mln t in JanMar 2022”, Banchero Costa concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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