The northern port of Dalian has stopped accepting imports of coal from Australia as part of a wider overall cutback on coal shipments, Dalian customs authorities told Reuters.
The length of the ban has not been specified, but Australian coal has also been substantially delayed at other Chinese ports to a minimum 40-day-processing period. Dalian customs officials said that by the end of the year the port is looking to cap overall coal imports at 12 million tonnes.
Suspicions linger as to whether the ban stems from worsening ties between Canberra and Beijing in recent years since Australia leveled accusations against China of interfering in its domestic affairs. Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang denied that there were political motives.
“The goals are to better safeguard the legal rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the environment,” Geng said.
Australian treasurer Josh Frydenburg played down the developments at Dalian, saying that there would be no large effect on the economy and that this will not influence Australia’s “exceptionally strong” relationship with China.