Steel-Making Dry-Bulk Shipment Estimates Lowered by Australia

Australia lowered estimates of global shipments of iron ore and metallurgical coal in 2012, as demand from China for imports of the steelmaking raw materials grew more slowly than expected.

Iron ore exports this year will be 1.1 billion metric tons, 16 million tons less than forecast three months ago, government forecaster Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics said in a quarterly report on its website today.

Along with metallurgical coal, global exports of the two raw materials comprise about 35 percent of all dry-bulk cargoes shipped by sea, according to Clarkson Plc, the world’s biggest shipbroker. The cutback represents 100 fewer cargoes of iron ore carried on Capesize vessels, which each transport about 160,000 tons.

Australia, the largest ore exporter, is expected to ship 479 million tons this year, down from the previous forecast of 493 million, the report showed. Global ore shipments to China, which imports 53 percent of all steelmaking raw materials, will reach 699 million tons, down from the March estimate of 713 million tons, according to the bureau.

Australian ore exports are growing more than twice as quickly as those from Brazil, the second-largest supplier, rising 9 percent this year, compared with a 4.2 percent advance for the South American country. Brazilian exports will reach 326 million tons, down from the previous forecast of 333 million, according to the report.

Estimates related to steel consumption in China are being lowered “due to a reduction in assumed domestic economic growth,” while production is still seen rising 4 percent to 648 million tons, the report showed. The Asian country produced 47 percent of the world’s steel in May, according to the World Steel Association.

Property Construction

More than 40 percent of steel produced in China is used in property construction, Simon Young, chief executive of the U.K. subsidiary of China Cosco Holdings Co., the country’s largest shipowner, said in London on June 20. The link between declining house prices, steel production and shipping was the most important factor in dictating seaborne demand for dry-bulk raw materials, he said at a shipping-industry luncheon.

Metallurgical coal exports from Australia, the largest exporter of the material used in steelmaking, will be 149 million tons this year, down from the last estimate of 157 million tons, the bureau said. China’s imports will grow 15 percent to 53 million tons, lower than the estimate three months ago of 63 million. Global seaborne trade in the commodity will be 286 million tons, 11 million tons lower than forecast in March, according to the bureau.

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