Global seaborne coal imports up 6.1 % in 2017

Frontpage dry bulk research week 8

We estimate* that global seaborne coal imports in 2017 totaled 1.25 billion tonnes, a new all-time high, up 6.1% from 2016.

We group Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Hong Kong together as Stable Asia. Coal imports into these economies have been growing a stable pace in the last 10 years. Grouped together these economies represents the biggest market for coal imports. Imports to Stable Asia totaled 442Mt* in 2017, up 4.5% from 2016 as new coal plants came on stream in line with our projections from 2016. This was the highest YoY growth in at least 11 years.

Graph global coal imports

China’s seaborne import** of coal totaled 233Mt in 2017, meaning that the status as the worlds biggest importing country remained firmly in place, a status briefly overtaken by India in 2015. While imports were up 12% from 2016 they remained down 21% from the all-time high of 293Mt in 2013. You can read our projections from 2016 on the Chinese coal market here.

We estimate* that India imported 197Mt in 2017, up 2.2% YoY.  Imports were down 9Mt in the first half of the year, but returned to a growth of about 13Mt in the second half of the year. You read our projections from 2016 on the Indian coal market here.

FH and SH by region graphs

We estimate* that the EU imports and UK imports totaled 176Mt and 8.1Mt respectively in 2017, both unchanged from 2016. Read our projections from 2016 for these coal markets here.

Imports to Emerging Asia (Malaysia*, Vietnam*, Philippines*, Pakistan and Bangladesh*) totaled 82Mt in 2017, up 26% YoY. The strong growth was in line with our projections from 2016.

Imports to other Atlantic (Turkey, Brazil, Ukraine, US, Morocco, Egypt and Israel) totaled 109Mt in 2017, up 6% from 2016. Turkish import of 39Mt was up 9% from 2016. Brazilian coal import of 24Mt was up 7% YoY. Ukrainian import of 20Mt was up 26% YoY. You can read our projections from 2016 for these countries here.

We believe the coal market will remain in a deficit in 2018 and we thus think it is safe to reiterate our statement from 2016: “The reports of coal’s death are greatly exaggerated”.


*Based on availiable customs data. EU28, India, Taiwan, Vietnam and Bangladesh is estimated for December. Phillipines import is estimated for November and December.

**excluding imports from Mongolia (landbased) and Anthracite import from North Korea (carried in short sea vessels)