China Leading Iron Ore Imports in 2023

China’s iron ore imports have increased so far in 2023, helping sustain dry bulk market rates. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Banchero Costa said that “2023 has been so far a positive year for global iron ore trade. In Jan-Jul 2023, global loadings of iron ore increased by +3.9% y-o-y to 892.6 mln tonnes, from 859.1 in the same period of 2022, based on Refinitiv vessel tracking data. It is also just above the 883.5 mln tonnes loaded in Jan-Jul 2021, which was the last all-time record. Exports from Australia increased by +2.4% y-o-y in Jan-Jul 2023 to 522.5 mln tonnes, easily a new all-time record high. Exports from Brazil also increased by +7.0% y-o-y in Jan-Jul 2023 to 197.6 mln t from 510.1 mln t in Jan-Jul 2022, and also just above the 194.2 mln t in Jan-Jul 2021. From South Africa volumes have been down -5.3% y-o-y to 32.4 mln t. From Canada, export volumes were up +4.1% y-o-y to 28.4 mln t in JanJun 2023. India also saw an increase of +55.4% y-o-y to 20.6 mln tonnes.

Source: Banchero Costa

According to the shipbroker, “demand has been poor everywhere except in Mainland China. To the European Union imports ended up down -17.2% y-o-y to 40.7 mln tonnes in Jan-Jul 2023. Iron ore imports into Japan declined by -10.3% y-o-y in Jan-Jul 2023 to 50.1 mln t. Volumes into South Korea were down by -10.9% y-o-y to 38.4 mln t. Mainland China is by far the largest importer of iron ore in the world. In Jan-Dec 2022, China accounted for 71.3% of global seaborne iron ore imports, with Japan in second place at just 6.0% and the EU in third place with a 5.4% share”.

“However, iron ore imports into China corrected significantly in 2021 and 2022 from the record levels seen previously. China’s iron ore imports in the 12 months of 2020 surged by a massive +6.9% y-o-y to 1,108.1 mln t, from 1,036.2 mln t in 2019. In 2020, China took advantage of favourably low prices of the commodity when most of the rest of the world was shut down in lockdowns. However, high iron ore prices in 2021, combined with a slowdown in construction activity following the financial troubles of developer Evergrande, resulted in a significant slowdown in steel production and iron ore demand in China. In 2021, China imported just 1,088.9 mln t of iron ore, down -1.7% y-o-y. In 2022, imports into China declined further by -1.0% y-o-y to 1,077.7 mln tonnes. In Jan-Jul 2023, Chinese imports of iron ore surged by +7.7% y-o-y to 656.6 mln tonnes, a record high”, the shipbroker noted.

Source: Banchero Costa

Banchero Costa said that “the vast majority (91%) of iron ore volumes into China in Jan-Jul 2023 were loaded on Capesizes, with 3% carried on VLOCs, 3% on Panamaxes, and 3% on Supramaxes. The main iron ore import terminals in Mainland China are: Caofeidian (66.3 mln t loaded in JanJul 2023), Jingtang (51.4 mln t), Rizhao (44.0 mln t), Tianjin (43.7 mln t), Ningbo/Zhoushan (43.4 mln t), Lianyungang (34.2 mln t), Zhanjiang (32.7 mln t), Dongjiakou (30.5 mln t), Lanshan (29.0 mln t), Huanghua (27.4 mln t), Changzhou (26.4 mln t), Fangcheng (23.1 mln t), Beilun (19.8 mln t), Qingdao (19.7 mln t). In terms of sources for China’s iron ore imports, distances are improving this year. Australia still remains by far the top source of iron ore for China, with a 67% share in Jan-Jul 2023. Iron ore imports from Australia to China in Jan-Jul 2023 increased by +4.4% y-o-y to 441.6 mln tonnes, from 423.1 mln t in Jan-Jul 2022. Brazil remains in second spot with a 20% share in 2021. Imports to China from Brazil increased by +10.2% y-o-y to 128.2 mln tonnes in Jan-Jul 2023, from 116.4 mln t in Jan-Jul 2022. Volumes from South Africa increased by +6.4% y-o-y to 18.1 mln t in JanJul 2023. From India volumes surged by +97.4% y-o-y to 15.9 mln t. From Canada volumes increased by +50.7% y-o-y to 10.1 mln t”, the shipbroker concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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