Port Waratah Coal Services has pushed back the schedule for first coal through its T4 coal loader by nearly two years.
According to PWCS head Hennie Du Plooy "the new information isn’t a complete surprise, given that the assumed timeframe to move coal through T4 under a best-case scenario has always been extremely tight".
This latest announcement comes just days after PWCS advised that the T4's costs had increased, growing by another $60 million
Regarding the schedule delay, Port Waratah explained that "although 2015 is the first year in which capacity from T4 is needed to fulfill contracts between producers and PWCS, detailed project schedules developed during the recently completed prefeasibility and option selection phase indicate that first coal is more likely to flow through T4 in mid-2017".
However, the port company added that it had earlier advised producers that it was unlikely to hit its 2015 target.
"With progress made on the planning approval process and the project scope confirmed, the realities and practicalities of delivering T4 are now more clearly defined," Port Waratah stated.
The coal loader had faced major problems before this latest announcement, as it went head to head with coal magnate Nathan Tinkler's proposed T5 coal loader in Newcastle.
While both proposals were put forward only one could be approved, which in the end was current loading company Port Waratah Coal Services.
Despite this latest operational setback, PWCS claim that the "commencement date of January 2015 was based on a four year lead time written into the Long Term Commercial Framework (LTCF) agreements, which foreshadow that the project schedule may change and, accordingly, contain a review clause.
"The agreements also contain provisions that allow producers to transfer loader allocations amongst each other, meaning producers can increase or decrease their capacity requirements – depending on their circumstances – by swapping tonnage," the company said.
PWCS CEO Hennie du Plooy said this event was still positive.
"This latest information provides the clearest indication yet of when we can deliver first coal through T4 and meet our contractual commitments.
"Port Waratah and the Hunter Valley coal industry now have another level of clarity and certainty about when T4 can be operational."
This latest information also highlights that the Hunter Valley rail track capacity will not be able to service the new terminal by 2015 either.
"The issue of terminal capacity being ahead of overall coal chain capacity is ongoing," Du Plooy said.