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* Debbie knocked out 11.5 mln tonnes of metallurgical coal -
* Chinese steel makers scramble to replace Australian coal
* Alternative supplies mostly come from the U.S, but also
* Australian disruptions to push up coal prices - ANZ
* Coking coal futures spike: tmsnrt.rs/2nVCEPj
By Henning Gloystein
SINGAPORE, April 4 China, the world's biggest
coking coal importer, is scrambling to cover Australian supply
disruptions after Cyclone Debbie knocked out mines and rails by
turning to an unusual source: the United States.
Debbie, which hit Australia's Queensland state last week,
caused the evacuation of several mines and damaged coal trains
supplying export terminals, triggering two miners - Yancoal
Australia and QCoal - to declare force majeure on its
deliveries. With other miners like BHP Billiton and
Glencore also affected by the storm's fallout, more
disruptions may follow.
Force majeure is a commercial term that means a buyer or
seller cannot fulfill their obligations because of outside
forces. It is typically invoked after natural disasters or
Australia, the world's biggest coking coal exporter, is
China's largest suppliers. With markets there closed on Monday
and Tuesday, its steel makers are clambering to find alternative
"Markets may be closed Monday and Tuesday, but there's
certainly activity. The Chinese are fixing cargoes from the
United States in order to replace the shortfall from Australia,"
one coal trader with knowledge of the matter said, speaking on
the condition of anonymity as he was not cleared to talk about
"More will make its way from the U.S. to China very soon,"
It was not immediately clear which American miners were
providing the supplies, but Thomson Reuters Eikon data shows
that China has already imported over 500,000 tonnes of U.S.
coking coal in 2017, ending a two-year stretch when no coking
coal was shipped between the two countries.
China will require more coal, as the Australian outages far
outstrip what is immediately available from the United States.
"The minimum impact over the coming weeks we would expect
would be in the region of 14 million tonnes of coal (11.5
million metallurgical, and 2.5 million tonnes thermal)," said
Rodrigo Echeverri, head of energy coal analysis at commodities
trading house Noble Group, adding that the current
estimate was for the outages to last around five weeks.
Shipping data in Eikon shows that around 70 ships are
waiting to load coal off the Queensland ports of Abbot Point,
Mackay, Dalrymple Bay, and Hay Point.
The outages caused Australian coking coal futures on the
Singapore Exchange on Monday to spike by over 25
percent to $197 per tonne, the biggest one-day move ever.
China has recently turned to Russia for more coking coal,
with imports rising to over 400,000 tonnes in February from
275,000 tonnes in December.
Mongolia and Indonesia are other potential sources of coking
coal for China, three coal traders said. Anthracite coal
shipments from North Korea to China, also used as coking coal,
have dried up after Beijing ordered an import ban following
missile tests of its isolated neighbour.
Overall, traders said it was unlikely that all of China's
near-term demand could be met without Queensland supplies,
likely requiring inventory drawdowns, which will push up prices.
"With a significant amount of the world's premium hard
coking coal now marooned onsite, prices are likely to continue
to push higher," ANZ said.
(Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Christian