The Guardian reported that more than 50 Australian coal ships are still stranded off China’s coast, held up by a Chinese government import ban, despite the country facing coal shortages and one of its worst power blackouts in years. According to data provided to the Guardian by the energy market intelligence firm Kpler, ships carrying hundreds of millions of tonnes of Australian coal remain stranded off the coast after the government suddenly banned imports in October amid a deepening trade dispute. Kpler data identified 53 vessels that had been waiting offshore for more than four weeks, while all ships carrying coal from other countries, except one, had delivered their load and departed. In December, three Australian coal ships in the congestion list left for ports outside China. Two of them had been waiting since August and another one has waited since October.
China has rejected suggestions that its October ban on Australian coal has contributed to the coal shortage but the ban has been linked to higher domestic prices. Analysts have said that under the current circumstances any incoming coal would help. Hundreds of millions of Chinese people have been ordered to severely ration electricity usage, including limiting factory operations, stopping elevators in high rise apartments, and banning the use of heaters until temperatures drop below 3 degree Celsius. In explaining the power cuts, authorities have pointed to increased industrial production post pandemic, and lower than normal temperatures, noting that the south of the country doesn’t have the energy efficiency of central heating.
Electricity limits have been in place in the provinces of Zhejiang, Hunan and Jiangxi, and the autonomous region of inner Mongolia, since early December, as all three provinces saw increased year-on-year power consumption. Until the end of the year, all street lights and billboards have been switched off in the Zhejiang city of Yiwu. Companies in Yiwu, believed to be the world’s largest wholesaler market, are limited to later start times