Shipments last month climbed to 3.43mn short tons (3.11mn metric tonnes) from 2.91mn st in January 2018, according to data from the Virginia Maritime Association. That was the highest level since 3.71mn st were loaded in October.
The increase followed two months of year-over-year decreases at the end of 2018 and coincided with the start of shipments for quarterly and annual metallurgical coal contracts. A total of 47 vessels set sail from Hampton Roads terminals last month, up from 35 in January 2018 and 37 in December.
The Virginia Maritime Association does not differentiate loadings by coal type. US Census Bureau data show that metallurgical coal has accounted for around 85pc of shipments out of Norfolk, Virginia, in recent years.
The increase in January Hampton Roads exports was spread across all three coal terminals. Shipments out of Norfolk Southern’s Lamberts Point terminal climbed by 22pc to 1.47mn st in January, while exports from Dominion Terminal Associates rose to 1.16mn st from 1.12mn st.
At Kinder Morgan’s Pier IX, volumes increased to 798,895st from 584,374st.
Market participants are relatively optimistic that coal exports will be stable this year after reaching multi-year highs in 2018.
Eastern US railroad CSX said on 16 January it expects export coal volumes in 2019 to remain close to last year’s levels. CSX hauled 43.1mn st of coal to east coast export terminals in 2018, the highest level since 2013.
Norfolk Southern’s exports increased by 6pc last year to just over 28mn st. The carrier said limited supplies will be restrain total first quarter coal shipments. But that is a “temporary constraint” that could be lifted by the end of this quarter, chief marketing officer Alan Shaw said.
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- On February 4, 2019