India's thermal coal imports rise over 14 pct in Q2 - trader

NEW DELHI, July 24 (Reuters) - India’s thermal coal imports rose by more than 14 percent in the second quarter of 2018 from a year earlier, putting the energy-hungry nation on track for a rise in annual imports after two straight years of decline.

Indian imports rose to 43.4 million tonnes during the three months ended June 30, up from 37.9 million a year ago, according to data from American Fuels & Natural Resources, a Dubai-based trader of coal from the United States which tracks shipments around the region.

That is India’s highest quarterly import tally in two years, which along with higher consumption in China has been a major driver behind the strong recovery seen in benchmark Australian coal prices this year.

The strong purchases take India’s first-half imports to 81.9 million tonnes, up 13 percent from the 72.3 million tonnes imported over the same period in 2017.

Domestic logistical bottlenecks due to a shortage of trains, regulatory changes targeting pollution cuts and surging power demand have all fuelled the higher imports, which are expected to stay firm through the rest of the year.

“Users of petcoke switching over to coal due to a ban in some regions, regulations being contemplated in others, and logistical bottlenecks are driving coal demand in India,” Vasudev Pamnani, a senior coal trader from American Fuels, told Reuters.

“Any additional demand will be addressed by imports, and India will support pricing.”

Indonesia accounted for over three-fifths of total supplies during the latest quarter, while South Africa accounted for over a fifth, according to vessel arrival data tracked by American Fuels.

U.S. coal made up about 9 percent, the data showed.

Adani Enterprises, India’s largest coal trader, accounted for over 14 percent of all imports, purchasing about 6.23 million tonnes during the period, the data showed.

The Tata Group imported 2.16 million tonnes of coal, while Swiss Singapore, part of the Aditya Birla Group, shipped in 2.21 million tonnes and JSW Group brought in 2.14 million tonnes.

The companies did not respond to requests for comment.

The Mundra port brought in the most coal shipments, and accounted for about 13.6 percent of all imports, according to American Fuels. Krishnapatnam took 11.5 percent, while Kandla handled about 9.3 percent of all imports.

Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; editing by Richard Pullin