Richards Bay 2012 Coal Terminal Shipments Rise to Six-Year High

Richard’s Bay Coal Terminal on South Africa’s eastern coast shipped the most fuel in 2012 for six years as U.S. exports pushed down prices while demand held for higher-quality African coal.

Shipments rose 4.3 percent to 68.3 million metric tons, the highest level since 2006, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data published today on the company’s website.

“I think that there’s a combination of quality and price that makes it attractive to buyers,” said Xavier Prevost at XMP Consulting in Pretoria. “The mines were not willing to produce more because the price was very low.”

Spot prices for coal shipped from Richards Bay reached an annual low of $79.87 a ton on Nov. 2, according to data on Bloomberg provided by IHS McCloskey. They have risen 11 percent since to $88.94. Prices averaged $92.89 in 2012, 20 percent cheaper than 2011’s $116.20, according to IHS McCloskey.

“A lot of the coal that Americans were supposed to sell remained, so they decided to go into a very aggressive export,” Prevost said. Many of the buyers in China, India and Europe preferred the higher quality coal from South Africa, he said.

Total U.S. coal exports for the quarter ended June rose to the highest level on record, according to the Energy Department.

The port, whose owners include BHP Billiton Ltd. and Anglo American Plc, has capacity to export 91 million tons annually. It had 3.3 million tons of stockpiles at the end of the year, nearly double the 1.7 million tons at the end of 2010.

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