LNG Tanker arriving in Gladstone harbour.
LNG Tanker arriving in Gladstone harbour. Mike Richards GLA091108LNGS

Record LNG shipments, but coal exports drop to five-year low

WHILE a record amount of liquefied natural gas left Gladstone's Port in 2018, coal shipments dropped to a five-year low.

Data released this week by Gladstone Ports Corporation shows trade for the calendar year of 2018 totalled 120.9 million tonnes, almost half a million tonnes lower than the previous year.

The total exports were affected by lower shipments of coal, with 67.8 million tonnes leaving the port, the lowest since 2013.

Gladstone Ports Corporation acting chief executive Craig Walker said there was a number of supply chain factors that impacted the delivery of coal to port, including maintenance works and weather events.

The drop in exports follows Aurizon's controversial move to slash its maintenance schedule mid-2018.

The issue stemmed from a QCA draft ruling on the amount of revenue Aurizon could earn on the monopoly network.

The amount was $1billion less over four years than Aurizon had submitted.

While Mr Walker did not highlight Aurizon's decision as a key impact for the drop in coal exports, he did say "maintenance works" was one of the contributing factors to the decline. Mr Walker said "varying levels of international demand" also affected coal exports.

But the end of 2018 produced a shift in coal exports, with the December 2018 quarter recorded as the highest export quarter since December 2015.

Meanwhile international shipments of LNG from the Port of Gladstone totalled 20.58 million tonnes in 2018, setting a new 12-month record for the port.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said an "energy-hungry Asia" would continue to grow Queensland's LNG sector.

"China's demand for our LNG in 2017 was 57 per cent of total exports but last year it was 69 per cent," Mr Macfarlane said.

"According to the Office of the Chief Economist's latest report, China plans to increase the share of gas in its energy mix from 7 per cent to a range of 8-10 per cent by 2020.

Mr Walker said another highlight for 2018 was the introduction of a regular container liner service through Pacific Asia Express/ Mariana Express Line.

"Over the past six months, the service has generated significant interest, both within Central Queensland and further afield," Mr Walker said.

He said during the next 12 months the company would continue to investigate ways to further develop and diversify trade across its three ports in Gladstone, Rockhampton and Bundaberg. More than 20 products were handled during 2018, ranging from coal and LNG, to calcite, gypsum and containers.