The contraction in European industrial production in 2009 (which was down by 14.0% y-o-y in September) has lead to a decline in demand for electricity and hence for steam coal. German steam coal imports in the year-to-September 2009 totalled 17.7mt, down. 13.2% y-o-y and electricity production from combustible fuels in the same nine month period was down by 7.9%. Steam coal imports to the UK were down by 5.1% y-o-y in the first nine months to total 25.1mt whilst electricity production from combustibles was down by 3.4% y-o-y.

Overall seaborne EU-5 thermal coal imports, in full year are expected to contract by 10.9% y-o-y to stand at 128.4mt, the lowest annual total since 2002.
Provisional projections put 2010 imports at 130mt, equating to growth of 1.3% y-oy, reflecting a slow recovery in industrial production and a gradual increase in demand for electricity.

Steam coal news
Thermal coal imports to Asia are currently projected to increase by 28.9mt y-o-y in 2009, the decline in imports to Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia heavily outweighed by increases in imports to India, South Korea and the emergence of China as a major importer. Chinese thermal coal imports were high for yet another month in October, totalling 6.4mt, up by 6.2% m-o-m and by 271% y-o-y.  This brought year-to-date thermal coal imports to 40.9mt, and projected imports for full year 2009 to 51.9 mt. Thermal coal imports to South Korea reached their highest point for over a year in October 2009 to total 7.6mt, up l6.3% m-o-m and 14.8% y-o-y. Full year steam coal imports to reach 79.5mt, and exhibit growth of 8.3% y-o-y.

After reporting rather low monthly figures in early 2009, Indonesian thermal coal exports have recovered to the highest levels on record in July and August this year. Exports from the country in July reached 24.5mt, whilst exports in August stood at 25.lmt. This brings total exports in 2009 so far to 134.8mt, just 2.4mt below 2008 levels, despite exports during the first three months of 2009 reporting a 26.4% y-o-y decline. Steam coal exports from Indonesia are expected to remain high in the remainder of the year, and full year 2009 imports are projected to be up by 2.6% y-o-y.

Sustained strong demand by China and South Korea and good export availability from Australia and Indonesia in particular have helped buoy global seaborne steam coal trade in 2009. As a consequence, world trade is now projected to grow slightly in 2009 to 581mt, before increasing further
in 2010.
Dry Bulk trade outlook, CLARKSON Research Services limited, Volume 15, No. 12. December, 2009