In 2010, global coal trade amounted to just over one billion tonnes or 14.8 % of world coal production of 7.2 billion tonnes. These figures show that coal is mainly used in the vicinity of deposits. However, coal from mines with low production costs and favourable locations near to sea ports can be delivered competitively to overseas consumers. Imported hard coal to Europe makes a significant contribution to the EUís security of energy supply and offers a competitive fuel which can be easily and safely transported and stocked.
Seaborne trade can be further divided into coking coal trade and steam coal trade. The market for steam coal can be subdivided into Pacific and Atlantic markets, each with different supply patterns. By contrast, the coking coal market is a more uniform world market, reflecting the small number of supply countries. In 2010, seaborne steam coal trade grew to 713 million tonnes, with a further 250 million tonnes of coking coal. Overland cross-border deliveries added an estimated 90 million tonnes to international hard coal trade.
Important exporting countries for hard coal are Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Colombia, South Africa and the USA, who together account for almost 85 % of all coal exports. The top ten hard coal importing countries are Japan, China, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Germany, Turkey, the UK, Italy and Malaysia, together accounting for about 75 % of hard coal trade. In 2010, 18 % of hard coal exports were destined for the EU.
A decisive factor that determines coal flows from exporting countries to importing countries is geography. The market for hard coal in Asia is dominated by Australia and Indonesia, meeting demand from the largest importers, notably Japan, China and South Korea. Other suppliers to countries in the Asia-Pacific region are South Africa, Russia, Canada, the USA, Vietnam and China. Leading exporters to the EU are Russia, Colombia, South Africa and the USA, followed by Australia and Indonesia.