Shipments dropped to 8.29mn short tons (7.52mn metric tonnes) from a little over 11mn st a year earlier, according to US Census Bureau data released today. Both thermal and metallurgical volumes declined.
Thermal coal shipments recorded a sixth month of year-on-year decreases, falling to 3.54mn st from 5.12mn st. And coking coal exports fell to 4.65mn st from 5.83mn st.
Volumes to most major trading partners fell during the month as demand weakened and steam coal prices sank below levels at which most producers could make a profit. Weather was also a factor for market participants.
Flooding across the midwest slowed barge and rail traffic. The US Coast Guard has imposed vessel traffic restrictions along parts of the Mississippi river most of this spring amid high water levels and dangerous currents.
It is not clear when restrictions will be lifted.
Coal exports out of New Orleans dropped to 885,391st from 1.66mn st a year earlier. Thermal coal shipments out of the port dropped to 880,160st, the least since September 2017.
Some shippers tried to work around the issues in New Orleans by diverting shipments to other ports. Foresight Energy chief executive Robert Moore said in May that the company was making some export shipments through Mobile, Alabama, because of issues related to high water around the Convent Marine Terminal in Louisiana.
Mobile was the only significant coal port that had an increase in exports in April, according to Census data. Shipments through there climbed to 1mn st from 801,919st in April 2018. Thermal coal exports rose to 230,941st from zero a year earlier, offsetting a dip in coking coal shipments.
Exports out of Norfolk, Virginia, plunged to 2.81mn st from 4.54mn st. Both thermal and metallurgical coal volumes declined.
Shipments out of Baltimore were essentially unchanged, at just over 2mn st, as an increased metallurgical coal volumes offset a slight decrease in thermal coal. While steam coal exports to India increased, to 898,411st, volumes to other parts of Asia declined.
Steam coal shipments out of Baltimore to Africa also dropped, to zero from 269,884 in April 2018. Total thermal coal exports to Africa rose to 692,336st from 609,380st as exports out of New Orleans, Norfolk and Mobile picked up the slack from Baltimore.
Total thermal coal shipments to Asia fell to 1.7mn st from 2.16mn st. Exports to South Korea plunged to 297,771st from 515,064st, offsetting gains in volumes to India and Japan.
Coking coal exports to Asia fell to 1.01mn st from 1.65mn st.
Steam coal exports to Europe dropped nearly in half, to 776,021st from 1.5mn st a year earlier.
Decreases in Europe were relatively broad-based amid low natural gas prices and strong renewable generation that limited coal-fired power. Coal generation in Germany, Spain, the UK and France dropped to the lowest level in more than five years in March and was only slightly higher than that the following month.
US thermal coal exports to the Netherlands, a key entry point for coal going to northwest Europe, slipped to 605,858st from 646,550st in April 2018. Shipments to Germany, France, the UK and Spain dropped to essentially zero from 597,394st.
Steam coal exports to Turkey also dropped to zero from 60,627st.
Shipments to eastern European countries were mixed.
Metallurgical coal exports to Europe fell to 2.04mn st from 2.65mn st a year earlier.
Coal exports to the Americas declined. Lower thermal coal volumes offset gains offset coking coal gains within North, South and Central America.
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- On June 7, 2019