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Atlantic Coal-Ship Rates Touch 2013 Low on Colombia Mine Strike

Hire costs for Capesize ships, the biggest coal carriers, for voyages in the Atlantic region touched this year’s low as a strike in Colombia curbed exports of the commodity.

Daily charter rates for the vessels in the Atlantic area fell 4.4 percent to $4,905, the lowest since Dec. 21, figures from the London-based Baltic Exchange showed today. Average Capesize hire costs declined 3.1 percent to $5,216 a day, capping a 23 percent weekly drop, the biggest since December.

Ten coal shipments totaling 900,000 metric tons were canceled this week because of a strike at Colombia’s Cerrejon mine, Coal Marketing Co., the exclusive shipper of the site’s production, said Feb. 19. Disruptions are preventing 84 percent of shipments from the country, the source of 29 percent of Europe’s power-station coal, Deutsche Bank AG said Feb. 20.

“Strikes in Colombia resulted in a very slow week for transatlantic routes and led to a large fall in rates,” Braemar Seascope Ltd., a London-based shipbroker, said in an e-mailed report yesterday.

Single-voyage rates paid to hire the world’s 1,513 Capesizes have been lower than daily operating costs estimated at $7,758 by London-based accountant Moore Stephens LLP since Jan. 29. That’s before paying for marine fuel, the industry’s biggest expense.

The Baltic Dry Index, a broader measure of shipping costs, gained 0.4 percent to 740 on stronger hire rates for the three classes of smaller vessels tracked by the gauge. The index’s average in 2012 was the lowest in 26 years as the fleet of commodity ships expanded amid slowing cargo demand.

Daily average charter rates for Panamaxes, the largest vessels to navigate the Panama Canal, gained 2 percent to $7,253 and Supramaxes that are about 25 percent smaller climbed 1.6 percent to $7,494, according to the exchange. Handysizes, the smallest ships in the index, rose 0.2 percent to $6,127.

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