South African thermal coal shipments out of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) reached a record high of 70.2 million tonnes for 2013, an increase of 3% over the prior year (68.3 million tonnes). This improvement was bolstered by Transnet Freight Rail (TFR)’s improved performance. TFR also had a record calendar year with 70.5 million tonnes railed to RBCT, a 3% improvement over 2012 (68.5 Mt). In 2103, Asia accounted for 75% of South African thermal coal shipments, 3% lower than 2012.
The year saw thermal coal prices generally continued their declining trend. Delivered prices into Europe (API2) fell below US$75/tonne in June 2013, their lowest in three years, before regaining some lost ground with a fourth quarter average price of US$84.3/tonne. The average API2 price index was $81.5/tonne for the year. The average API4 (FOB, Richards Bay) index price also fell below US$75/tonne in June 2013, while the average for the year fell by approximately 14% to $80/tonne (2012: US$93/tonne) to close at US$85/tonne (2012: US$89/tonne).
Generally, the lower prices have forced producers to seek productivity gains and ramp up volumes in order to reduce unit costs. In conjunction with newly commissioned infrastructure projects, this has resulted in strong supply-side performance from various export countries. Depreciation of the Australian dollar and South African rand, which declined by 6% and 18% respectively against the US dollar, provided some relief for producers.