Port Waratah Coal Services have cut 34 jobs, citing the need to respond to challenging conditions in the coal industry.
PWCS chief Hennie du Plooy said the cuts are part of a wider ongoing business review at both the Kooragang Island and Carrignton Terminals which was aimed at identifying areas of efficiency.
“Port Waratah is just like any other service provider to the Hunter Valley coal industry – we are working very hard to ensure that the cost of our services are consistent with the very challenging economic conditions being experienced as a result of low coal prices and the strong Australian dollar,” du Plooy said.
The move comes as both thermal and coking coal prices took a significant dive this year, with some saying further price dips are expected.
Thermal coal prices have dropped from about $US130 a tonne in 2011 to $US73 while the amount being paid for hard coking coal has fallen from highs of $US300 a tonne to around $US120 a tonne.
These drops are reflected in the amount PWCS charges to handle the commodity for its customers.
The Newcastle Herald reports the charge has been skimmed from $4.50 a tonne in 2012 to $2.80 this year.
“As an infrastructure provider with unique obligations to provide terminal capacity to the industry,we need to strike an important and difficult balance at the moment,” du Plooy said.
The 34 job cuts will be made up of 12 operator roles, nine staff and 13 contractors.
Meetings with the unions are expected to take place in the coming days.
Despite the job cuts, PWCS is forging ahead with plans to gain approval for the controversial T4 coal loader at the Kooragang site.
The loader will increase export capacity at Newcastle by 70 million tonnes, and has headed to the Planning Assessment Commission for an independent review.
While PWCS exported 109 million tonnes of coal last year, with around the same levels expected to run through this year, du Plooy said it needed to plan for future demand.
“Right now we are in a situation where we need to respond to the short-term economic conditions affecting our industry, but we also need to plan for the long term, ensuring we are positioned to deliver growth capacity should the industry require it in the future,” he said.