The queue of ships at major Australian coal port, Newcastle, is near its longest level since 2007, before the financial crisis, and waiting times are at a one-year record.
   Just before Christmas last year, a peak of 60 vessels waiting was reached, a figure almost matched at the end of January this year when 58 ships had to queue. This surge is attributed to a booming demand for coal. Average waiting times for vessels at the port are also at a one-year high of 17.86 days, according to figures from the Newcastle Port Corporation.
Demand has grown significantly due to the soaring demand from coal buyers in China and Europe, after severe winters
caused a surge in demand for electricity.
   Most of the coal shipped through Newcastle — used by Xstrata, Rio Tinto and Centennial Coal — is thermal coal used
by power stations. Its price jumped to more than US$100 a tonne in January, amid sub-zero temperatures in key markets.
The growing queues are a positive sign for export industries, but they also highlight the increasing strain on port infrastructure as the global resources boom gathers pace.
 
Barry Cross