Global port congestion worsening
Global port congestion has hit fresh highs, with 380 bulk carriers now at anchor at ports around the world, including 215 in Australia.
That figure, compiled by the Global Port Congestion Index, tops the previous record of 379 bulk carriers of 40m dwt seen in the first week of January, after bad weather delayed ships at Chinese coal importing coal ports.
Major disruptions at east coast coal ports in Australia, particularly at Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and neighbouring Hay Point, have pushed waiting times and delays to new records.
There are over 100 capesize, panamax and handymax bulk carriers in the area in far north Queensland at anchor. Waiting times for each vessel there have now surpassed a month, according to the index.
Congestion in Brazil, Indonesia and China as well as Australia has tied up 142 capesize bulk carriers from the global fleet of just over 1,000, compared to 144 a week earlier. There are also 160 panamax vessels globally at anchor ? five more than a week ago ? with 90 of these queuing at Australian ports.
Some 78 handymax vessels are also delayed, including 30 in Australia.
There are lengthy queues at the thermal coal export port of Newcastle, where the opening of a new terminal last month has failed to ease capacity constraints.
Although there are record numbers of vessels tied up at ports around the world, freight rates have remained stable, with average capesize rates at just under $30,000 per day. During periods of high port congestion in December and January rates were a little higher, around $35,000 per day in early January.
?The smaller segments have weakened over the last two weeks, with average panamax rates at $29,800 per day [on Thursday], down 10% week-on-week, despite a record number of panamax vessels at anchorage outside Australian ports, for the first time surpassing 100 vessels last week,? said Arctic Securities in a recent report.
Panamax average rates are about equal with capesize bulk carriers, even though they transport around half the amount of bulk commodities.
Shipping queues in Australia have steadily worsened since September as traditional coal buyers such as Japan and South Korea returned to the market, coinciding with a doubling in Chinese demand, testing already struggling rail and port infrastructure.
Furthermore, Chinese thermal coal demand is tipped to surge this quarter on the back of drought conditions in the country"s southwest which have restricted hydropower production.
?Chinese thermal coal imports have been robust in recent months and may very likely remain near or above record highs in the upcoming months and into the third quarter,? said US-based maritime consultancy, Commodore Research.