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China's coal blockade over 'quality' grows to $700 million and 57 ships


The queue of coal ships trying to get access to China’s ports has now reached 57, carrying cargo estimated at $700 million as Chinese officials now claim it’s about quality issues.

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The Federal Government said it was trying to work with China but the industry said it had little knowledge of the new claims about quality.

The blockade comes at a time when the industry is also dealing with a four year low in prices for coal.

There is still a belief that the issue is related to China’s coal import quotas which regularly mean shipments are stopped at this time of the year. However, this time the issue appears to be about diplomatic tensions between the two countries and China continues to claim Australia is following the lead of the US.

There are reports that up to 1000 people are on board the ships.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that in recent years, China’s customs officials had found many cases where the imported coal didn’t meet environmental protection standards while conducting risk monitoring and analysis over the safety and quality of imported coal.

“In accordance with relevant laws and regulations, customs officials have strengthened quality, safety and environmental inspections of imported coal to better protect the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and ensure environmental safety.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week urged the United States and China to show more “latitude” to smaller nations, warning that partners and allies need “a bit more room to move” as strategic competition intensified in the region.

He told Channel Nine’s Today Show that Australia made its own decisions about policies its national interests “and no one else’s”

“We will work through these issues with respect with the Chinese Government,” he said.

“There are obviously tensions there but those tensions aren’t resolved by Australia surrendering its sovereignty,” he said.

“It is incredibly complicated what we are dealing with here and we have the best people working on these issues,” he said.

Beijing had earlier acknowledged Mr Morrison’s “positive comments”.

“China noticed Prime Minister Morrison’s positive comments on the global influence of China’s economic growth and China’s poverty alleviation efforts,”  Zhao said earlier this week.

“We hope Australia will make independent, objective, sensible choices that serve its own interests,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at a daily press conference.

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