Brazil-bound coking coal made a debut this week at a New Orleans area loading terminal.

Bryan Bashore, marketing director at TECO Transport & Trade Corp., said his company loaded the first cargo of Appalachian coal for the Brazilian steel industry under a contract calling for shipment via the Lower Mississippi River

entrance to the Gulf of Mexico.The coal was loaded at TECO's Electro-Coal Transfer terminal in Davant, La. It was a split cargo of tonnage supplied by Old Ben Coal Co., Cleveland, and Blue Diamond Coal Co., Knoxville, Tenn., Mr. Bashore said.

The pair are the first U.S. suppliers to reach contract agreements with Brazilian importers for barge coal deliveries. Blue Diamond became a new contract supplier for Brazil in the fiscal year that began April 1. It shipped one spot cargo last year. Old Ben held previous contracts with Brazilian


Mr. Bashore disclosed that a third U.S. company, Island Creek Corp., Lexington, Ky., a longstanding Brazilian supplier, also will ship some coal through Electro-Coal. He said the company likely will load its first cargo in June.

Electro-Coal could handle in this contract year up to 500,000 tons of coking coal destined for Brazil, Mr. Bashore said.

For years, U.S. coal producers, barge companies and terminal operators have encouraged Brazilian steelmakers to sign contracts for coal transported on the inland waterway system.

But the mills have opted to ship the vast majority of the 5.5 million tons they purchase annually from the United States by rail to seaport terminals at Hampton Roads, Va., and Baltimore. Alabama tonnage is loaded at Mobile.

Some of the agreements covering Lower Mississippi loadings were made earlier this year when Brazilian buyers and U.S. sellers were far apart in annual price negotiations.