BEIJING/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Guangzhou port, the largest coal hub in southern China, has halted foreign coal imports, according to traders who use the port and said they had been informed of the shutdown by customs authorities and senior company officials.
Traders said the move caught merchants using Guangzhou by surprise - the port has 14 coal berths and can handle 60 million tonnes of shipments per year - and interpreted it as a sign of Beijing stepping up a campaign to cut pollution caused by use of coal. China already banned coal imports at small ports in July.
“We were told by customs that the port has stopped accepting foreign shipments,” said one trader, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media. “Starting this week, we will avoid using the Guangzhou port.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how long the import halt would last, nor how many cargoes would be affected. Shipping data compiled by Thomson Reuters Eikon showed dozens of large dry-bulk ships anchoring in waters outside Guangzhou, waiting to offload.
Guangzhou port authorities and customs officials did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Another trader based at Guangzhou said his company has stopped booking supplies for October arrivals, despite increasing demand from utilities.
“We still have a couple cargoes each of 60,000 tonnes on the way to Guangzhou port. If these cargoes cannot clear customs, we probably have to return them,” the Guangzhou based trader said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.
“The last time I saw a foreign cargo being allowed to unload was almost a week ago,” he said.
($1 = 6.5240 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Meng Meng in BEIJING and Henning Gloystein in SINGAPORE; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell