Chinese customs released both its monthly and YTD (cumulative) coal and iron ore import figures for March. The monthly figures indicate coal and iron ore imports of 27.3 MMT (up 32% MOM and down 2% YOY) and 102.1 MMT (up 13% MOM and 19% YOY), respectively.

The YTD timeseries suggest that Chinese coal imports thus far in 2021 have amounted to 95.76 MMT (unchanged YOY) and matching the elevated import volumes seen in Q1 2020. This seems to include revised volumes for the Jan-Feb period, which came in surprisingly weak last month, and more aligned with the observed strength in the dry bulk shipping market during Q1. 

For iron ore, cumulative figures from Chinese customs authorities suggest YTD iron ore imports of 262.4 MMT, which is down 0.1% from 2020.

We believe firm Chinese steel prices and low coal inventory levels ahead of the summer peak should be beneficial for dry bulk owners near-term.

Iron ore would be beneficial from a tonne-mile view, as higher-grade iron ore would be sourced from further away (e.g. Brazil), whilst coal should be beneficial on a purely volume related view, as Chinese authorities have the winter shortage fresh in mind.