Freight rates continue to rise sharply, led by strong increases for the largest capesize bulk carriers on the main iron ore routes from Brazil (C3) and Western Australia (C5) to China.
While rates are still far below the levels that prevailed during the boom years of 2007 and 2008, they look high by the standards of the previous decade.
Moreover, the number of vessels queued off Australia’s massive Newcastle coal loading terminal waiting to load coal bound for China and other destinations has risen to 35, from around 15 in the middle of Feb.
Newcastle-operator Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) recently cut loading allocations for May and Jun in a bid to reduce shipping queues.
Officially, queues have been blamed on logistics handling issues and weather-related delays, rather than heavy demand from Asian markets. But the weather has not been especially poor this autumn. Instead, too many vessels have been arriving for the port’s ability to shift coal from the rails onto vessels, lengthening queues.