Export volumes hit by coal downturn

Port Waratah Coal Services is feeling the pinch of the coal downturn, confirming it expects to ship less coal.

The fall-off in coal volumes was confirmed was PWCS yesterday.

Chief executive Hennie du Plooy said he was "concerned there is some risk of a downside in the second half of the year as producers continue to review their situations".

Du Plooy said PWCS had done what it could to "cut controllable costs such as contractors" and the T4 expansion project would be "demobilised" in August, Newcastle Herald reported.

"The only remaining activity will be the pursuit of the development approval, with a preferred project report submitted to the planning department in early September," Du Plooy said.

PWCS operates loaders at Carrington and Kooragang Island with both terminals having a combined shiplaoding capacity of 133 Mtpa.

Du Plooy said coal producers in the region has advised that the fall in demand for coal handling services was due to falls in production as a result of lower prices and higher export costs.

In early May, PWCS agreed to accept reduced tonnages, effectively putting the T4 loader on the back burner.

“The acceptance of these reductions means there is currently no capacity shortfall to be fulfilled through the proposed T4 project,” the company said at the time.

Du Plooy said the decision is a positive and appropriate outcome for the industry in challenging times.

“Coal producers who do not require all tonnages previously contracted for have been able to reduce their exposure to ship or pay obligations while producers who still require greater capacity for coal handling and were expecting to reply upon T4 now have access to exiting capacity, increasing certainty and timing,” he said.

Meanwhile, strike action by workers at the site has seen more than 84 hours of stoppages since the May 15.

Du Plooy said though he was ‘disappointed’ by continued industrial action by unions at the coal terminal, strikes had not affected the operation of the Hunter Valley Coal Chain.

Speaking after a meeting of PWCS workers yesterday, Maritime Union of Australia delegate Dennis Outram said the company could end the dispute "tomorrow".

"They say, trust us, we haven't done anything to hurt you in the last three years." Outram said.

"And we say that's because the members have been protected by the clause in the enterprise agreement they now insist has to be removed.

"They should know it works both ways. It also means that people can't come up with a bodgie reason not to work overtime for example, because the company could invoke the status quo clause. It's not a one-way street."

Image: abc.com.au

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