Nena News

Coal terminal stocks at 17-month high on barge disruptions

(Montel) Combined coal inventories at northwest European dry bulk terminals have risen to 17-month highs, as low river levels continued to hinder barge shipments to inland destinations.

Stocks at four key Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp (ARA) terminals were assessed last at 5.74m tonnes, more than 20% higher than at the same time last year, Montel data showed. 

Rotterdam’s EMO terminal had 3.5m tonnes in stock, while Amsterdam’s OBA terminal had 1.65m tonnes, according to the figures. 

The smaller EBS terminal at Rotterdam had 100,000t of inventories, while those at Ovet’s Vlissingen terminal, near Antwerp, stood at 360,000 tonnes. 

Stocks have swelled in recent weeks as low river levels mean less coal can be loaded onto barges. 

Furthermore, barge owners charge an incremental “low water premium”, as the waters become shallower, which encourages utilities to leave non-essential supplies in stock at ports. 

Lower levels 
Levels at the key German river indication point of Kaub, on the Rhine, are forecast to decline by more than 20% this week to just 50cm by the weekend, according to official data. 

With German coal-fired generation levels strong in recent months, underpinned by attractive clean dark spreads and relatively low renewable power output, stocks at plants were likely to be low, market sources said. 

“I believe stocks at German power plants are still there, but [coal supply] is low, and the further up the river system the plant is situated, the less [deliveries] you will see,” said Hans Gunnar Nåvik, senior analyst with Oslo-based StormGeo Nena Analysis. 

As a result, market participants anticipate some notable upturn in coal demand, once river levels finally rise to “normal”. 

To exacerbate the situation, shipping along a section of the Rhine south of Koblenz came to a halt this morning, due to a vessel accident, according to Dutch media reports. 

It was not clear, at this stage, how long the stoppage would last, but dry bulk terminal sources were hopeful the disruption would be short-lived. 

“Three weeks ago, a barge was towed back to EMO [coal terminal] after it ran aground near Dordrecht and damaged the propeller,” said a source at a Rotterdam-based coal terminal. 

“Let’s hope this goes smoothly as well,” he added.

Reporting by:
Laurence Walker
12:42, Tuesday, 9 October 2018