Coal inventories at northwest European import terminals are nearing full capacity amid slack generation demand, with some spot vessels now being turned away, according to port sources.
A mild winter coupled with high levels of renewable power generation and a utility preference for gas – due to more attractive generation margins – has resulted in the bulging port stocks.
Stocks at four key Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA) dry bulk terminals were assessed this week at 7m tonnes, marginally below early April’s multi-year high of 7.27m tonnes, but nearly 50% higher on the year.
“We are having to turn down enquiries for further spot deliveries,” said a source at one terminal, on the sidelines of an IHS Markit coal conference in Nice on Tuesday. He noted there was only some limited space remaining for planned deliveries.
A source at another terminal said there was potentially around 1m tonnes of inventory space remaining at ARA hubs, but most of this was already committed.
“We are having to recommend shipping to a competing terminal.”
At Rotterdam’s EMO terminal, four more coal cargoes are scheduled to arrive before the end of the month, despite stocks already being 30% higher on the year, at 3.9m tonnes.
The glut in supply has played a key role in driving down prices, with the Global Coal Des ARA index – a benchmark for regional physical prices – assessed last at USD 58.25/t, down more than 30% since the start of the year.
In an effort to shift inventories, some traders have reloaded cargoes for shipment outside the region, said the second source.
“We have even loaded cargoes [earmarked] for India,” he noted.
In addition to EMO’s inventories, Rotterdam’s smaller EBS terminal had 370,000 tonnes in stock.
Nearby, Amsterdam’s OBA terminal had 2.4m tonnes in stock, while Ovet’s Vlissingen terminal, near Antwerp, had 370,000 tonnes.