Coal exports out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, set a new four-year high in August after slumping the previous three months.
The port’s terminals handled 4.29mn short tons (3.89mn metric tonnes) of coal last month, up from 2.89mn st a year earlier, according to the Virginia Maritime Association. The last time the terminals handled more coal was in March 2014, when exports totaled 4.35mn st.
Shipments out of Hampton Roads have increased on a year-over-year basis for 22 straight months, but the amount of volume had appeared to be slowing in May, June and July after reaching a previous four-year high of 4.26mn st in April. Terminals at the port handled 3.75mn st in May, 3.56mn st the following month and 3.43mn st in July.
The latest increase coincided with firming prices for some qualities of metallurgical coal comes as domestic utilities and export buyers compete for a dwindling supply of US coal. Seaborne thermal coal prices also remained attractive for eastern US exporters.
Prompt 90-day shipments of US high volatile type B coal averaged $155.20/metric tonne fob Hampton Roads from mid-July through mid-August, when spot sales for exports out of the port likely would have been booked, up from $151.42/t the previous four weeks. Over the same periods, prompt two-month deliveries of 6,000 kcal/kg thermal coal to Europe slipped to an average $98.07/t cif Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp from $99.15/t.
Prices for both types of coal have been steady to higher more recently amid tight supply and, in the case of thermal coal, better-than-expected power demand in parts of Europe and Asia. That should keep shipments out of Hampton Roads elevated through at least this month as long as supply is available.
Exports out of all three Hampton Roads’ terminals were higher last month than they had been in August 2017. Loadings at Norfolk Southern’s Lamberts Point rose to 1.69mn st from 1.19mn st a year earlier.
Dominion Terminal Associates, which is jointly owned by Contura Energy and Arch Coal, handled 1.6mn st, up from 1.14mn st in August 2017. And shipments out of Kinder Morgan’s Pier IX terminal rose to 994,514st from 561,452st.
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- On September 7, 2018