PERTH, February 2 (Reuters) - - Glencore Xstrata has begun loading coal at its Abbot Point terminal in northeastern Australia after suspending operations last week due to tropical cyclone Dylan, a company spokesman said on Sunday.
The company, which operates the port that services the Bowen Basin coal deposit, began loading its first ship early on Saturday and the ship has left the port, Glencore Xstrata spokesman Francis de Rosa told Reuters.
Cyclone Dylan crossed the Queensland coast on Friday, bringing wind gusts up to 135 kph (83 mph), heavy rain and generating giant tides. It petered out and was downgraded to a tropical low as it moved inland.
“It hasn’t been nearly as bad as earlier weather reports said it might be and our coal mines inland have escaped any impact from the storm,” De Rosa said.
Ports in Australia’s coal-rich northeast shut early last week as Dylan approached, suspending shipments and evacuating staff.
Coal traders said a short interruption to shipping would have little impact on markets, given plentiful supplies in most markets and the slowdown in business activity in Asia because of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Dalrymple Bay, the world’s third-largest bulk-export coal terminal, and Hay Point, through which coal mined jointly by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp is shipped, remain closed until they can be surveyed for damage, Harbour Master Capt Zainol Ahmad said.
The Bowen Basin is the world’s single-largest source of metallurgical coal. Last year, Abbot Point terminal handled handled 21 million tonnes of coal and the Dalrymple Bay terminal moved more than 65 million tonnes, industry data showed.
In February 2011, Cyclone Yasi led to the closure of coal terminals in Abbot Point, Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay for almost a week, leading to a surge in coal prices.
Hard coking contract prices at the time increased to $330 a tonne, from $225, while thermal coal spot prices cleared $120 tonne for the first time in more than a year.