Rumours have been swirling in dry-bulk shipping on the possibility of China lifting its ban on Australian coal. China imposed the ban on coal from the Land Down Under in November after relations soured over Australia barring Huawei Technologies from building its 5G network in 2018.

The move has since impacted the bulker sector by boosting rates but also causing port congestion as vessels wait for months to drop Australian coal off at Chinese ports. The ban has resulted in 66 ships with Australian coal now waiting outside Chinese ports —19 capesizes and 47 panamaxes,” Clarksons Platou Securities said on Friday. “These ships have been waiting for 130 days on average to discharge the cargo.”

Clarksons said lifting the ban amid shortages of the commodity in China could cause rates to fall by returning 7m dwt of ship capacity to the spot market.

“Talk in the market today is that China might reverse the informal ban on Australian coal,” Clarksons said. “We have not been able to verify this but would note that this could be negative for dry bulk markets overall.”

Capesize earnings were down slightly to $24,600 per day while panamax rates came in at $14,700 per day, Clarksons noted.

If this does get lifted, this will add more vessels to the spot market while also reducing the inefficiencies we’ve seen from Australian coal going to other regions while China imports more coal from further away regions,” Jefferies analyst Randy Giveans told TradeWinds.