Sunday, April 15, 2007

Trade at the coalface

A near-record 153 ships sat idle, offshore yesterday, cluttering ports in NSW and Queensland. The port of Newcastle reports more than 68 ships waiting to be loaded with coal. Earlier this year, the build-up reached more than 75.

The ships - destined for markets in Japan, Korea and China - are waiting up to 25 days to load 14 million tonnes of coal, worth $850 million to the economy.

Two new infrastructure approvals will allow capacity at Newcastle, the world's largest coal exporting port, to more than double, to 209 million tonnes a year.

Strong demand, along with delays and recent flooding at some mine sites in Queensland, is contributing to the massive ship queues along the east coast. There are also fears that a rapidly increasing Indonesian supply will cut into Australia’s coal exports.

One NSW mine will shed 79 jobs because clogged port facilities in Newcastle have forced it to scale back its coal export production.

The Chinese government-owned Austar underground mine near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley plans to axe 56 permanent jobs plus another 23 contractor positions from late June.

Trade Minister Warren Truss says the long delays at Newcastle and at ports elsewhere in Australia are an embarrassment.

An embarrassment, not least because of the massive volumes of coal being shipped out of Australia amid global warming fears. While John Howard is pushing to develop nuclear power in this country, using another resource we have in abundance, he is still pumped up over the coal export trade.

The opposition Labor Party are locked into coal exports as well, as they rely heavily on a trade union base. So we get the political doublespeak on climate change and Australia still has no clear commitment greenhouse gas reduction.


Anonymous said...

I didn't even realize that Australia had such an abundance of coal. With export tonnage like that it would have to be one of your country's biggest natural resources.

Cartledge said...

Coal, iron ore, gold, silver, lead, zinc, tin... on it goes. No shortage of stuff we can dig up, but the lack of shipping with the current coal boom is putting pressure on the rest.

Anonymous said...

Coal, iron ore, gold, silver, lead, zinc, tin...

Sorry for the delay in getting back. Hmmm...well then...time to invade! Hold on a second while I get Secretary Gates on the phone... ;-)