Coal

Coal is a mineralised fossil fuel, mined extensively throughout the world and widely utilised as a source of domestic and industrial power. As a seaborne commodity it is nearly always carried in bulk and is of considerable importance, being shipped in large quantities from the United States East and Gulf Coasts, Canada’s West Coast, Australia, South Africa, Poland and the Russia, other areas despite having prolific coal-mining industries, exporting somewhat smaller amounts. Types of coal vary widely, ranging from soft (bituminous) types to hard (anthracite), through to manufactured coal products, such as coal briquettes, peas or beans, and patent fuels – perhaps mixtures of coal dust and cement. Product used directly to generate heat – eg: for use in power stations – is termed thermal coal; whereas metallurgical or coking coal is processed to become coke prior to being utilised in certain industries – eg: in steelworks. Much of the seaborne trade in coals is confined to large bulkcarriers – eg: Panamax size and above – for this is an industry truly relying on economies of scale on certain well-established trade routes. Few of these vessels have their own cargo-handling gear, relying instead on loading and discharging at modern, deepwater facilities fitted with sophisticated equipment.