At least two vessels carrying Australian coal have arrived in China for the first time since an unofficial ban on imports was introduced more than two years ago, and several more are on the way, shiptracking data showed.
The cargoes are being closely monitored by coal traders as they are keen to see how smooth Chinese customs procedures will be.
China last month, in a partial easing of the import ban, granted permission to just four central-government owned firms to bring in Australian coal.
Tiger East, a dry bulk vessel loading some 73,300 tonnes of Australian thermal coal from Queensland, is discharging at the southern Chinese city of Taishan, according to Refinitiv and Kpler data.
The coal could be sent to Guoneng Taishan utility, owned by China Energy Investment Corp, shiptracking data showed.
The second vessel, Magic Eclipse, carrying metallurgical coal that is reported to be for supply to Baowu Group, arrived at anchorage in Zhanjiang port on Wednesday night and is awaiting unloading.
Traders expect the two cargoes to pass Chinese customs smoothly given that the buyers, CEIC and Baowu, have received a green light from the government.
“In theory, there is no problem for these two cargoes. The issue is with other buyers who have not been granted permission,” said a China-based coal trader who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to talk to media.
Coal importers can discharge their cargoes at ports first and then apply for customs clearance.
But a growing coal inventory at Chinese ports, especially those in the north, is leaving limited space for new supplies, meaning buyers face a growing risk of demurrage if the customs process is drawn out.
Coal stocks at major ports in northern China reached 34.65 million tonnes this week, the highest level in six months, data from the China Coal Transportation and Distribution Association showed.
There are at least seven Australian coal carriers heading to China and due to arrive in coming weeks, according to shiptracking data.
(By Muyu Xu; Editing by Robert Birsel)