Townsville Bulletin

Chinese coal ban cuts NQ exports


COAL exports from North Queensland ports have slumped more than 10 per cent after the Chinese government banned imports as part of an economic campaign against Australia.

But the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporatio­n has revealed the slump in trade could have been far worse.

“When trade tensions occurred, NQBP anticipate­d that potentiall­y up to 30 per cent of its coal trade could be impacted,” the corporatio­n’s CEO, Nicolas Fertin says in its annual report tabled in parliament this week.

“Instead, the full year result ended up representi­ng a 10.4 per cent reduction of coal trade compared with 2019-20.”

The state-owned corporatio­n delivers port services critical to around 22,400 Queensland jobs in mining, agricultur­e and transport and facilitate­s about $23bn worth of trade.

The drop in coal exports will have been an opportunit­y cost of around $2bn.

Ships with Australian coal were stranded off Chinese ports from around November last year unable to unload their cargo.

The ban, a decision said to have been taken by China’s National Developmen­t and Reform Commission in a meeting with Chinese power plants, was revealed in media reports in December.

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporatio­n oversees the Port of Hay Point, comprising the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal and Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay, and the Port of Abbot Point near Bowen, as well as other commodity ports including Weipa.

The corporatio­n’s chair Brad Fish says the global impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, regional trade tensions and the decline of bauxite trade through the Port of Weipa put significan­t pressure on the corporatio­n, port users and the supply chain.

Even so, investment income contribute­d to an improved net profit after tax result of $15.9m, returning a $4.32m dividend to the government.

Coal tonnage results for the Port of Abbot Point were down 7.2 per cent to 29.6 million tonnes, while Hay Point coal volumes were 11.4 per cent lower at 98.3 million tonnes.

Bauxite through Weipa was 18.9 per cent lower to 15.9 million tonnes, reflecting the ramp down of the East Weipa Mine as it approaches the end of its life.

In new opportunit­ies, the NQBP is working with Gilmour Space Technologi­es to develop a rocket launch facility on a site at Abbot Point, while the corporatio­n says it has responded to “numerous interests” during the year from companies looking to develop a hydrogen export trade through Abbot Point, Hay Point and Mackay.

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