Cyclone Iris keeps seaborne coking coal market on edge [UPDATE]

The possibility of a cyclone intensifying off the coast of Queensland has raised concerns over how it might affect seaborne coking coal exports from the Australian state.

The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp, which oversees the Hay Point and Abbot Point coal terminals, announced on Tuesday April 3 that it had closed access to public assets ahead of the approaching Cyclone Iris.

“The ports of Hay Point and Abbot Point were closed on Tuesday April 3 under direction from the regional harbor master,” it added.

Rail freight operator Aurizon said on Tuesday that the unloading of coal trains has ceased following the closures of Abbot Point Coal Terminal, the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal.

“While the Central Queensland Coal Network remains open and available, trains in the Newlands and Goonyella systems have been stowed, or are in the process of being stowed,” it said.

The state meteorological bureau said on the same day that “Tropical Cyclone Iris is expected to continue moving slowly to the southeast, parallel to the Queensland coast, for the next two days while slowly intensifying.”

“The cyclone is not expected to cross the Queensland coast in the short to medium term, but may approach the coast close enough to produce significant impact,” it added.

Ports in Queensland shipped 15.98 million tonnes of coal – including some thermal coal – in February, compared with 16.71 million tonnes a year earlier.

At the time of writing, no miners in the region have announced any disruptions to their operations.

Weather-related problems affecting coal exports from Queensland was the most significant factor that determined the movement of seaborne coking coal prices last year.

Metal Bulletin’s fob Australia Premium Hard Coking Coal Index rose to a four-month high of $300 per tonne in April last year after Cyclone Debbie cut off some rail links between mines in Queensland and ports in the Australia state.

The disruptions were also instrumental in triggering a change in the mechanism that suppliers and Japanese buyers use to price quarterly contract cargoes of seaborne coking coal.

A year later, seaborne coking coal prices have come under pressure, with buyers citing ample offers as the reason for the weakness.

Metal Bulletin’s fob Australia Premium Hard Coking Coal Index stood at $193.05 per tonne on Monday April 2, down from $234.06 per tonne on March 1.

[Editor’s note: This article was updated after initial publication to include a statement from rail freight operator Aurizon.]