NEW DELHI India's coal imports fell 9 percent to 15.33 million tonnes in October from a month ago as cyclone Hudhud exacerbated congestion at some ports, according to provisional data from online trader mjunction.
Shipments into the world's third largest coal importer are, however, expected to jump to as much as 17 million tonnes this month due to lower international prices and as fuel-starved power companies order more.
Sixty one of India's 103 power plants had enough coal for less than a week as of last Sunday because of lower supplies from state giant Coal India (COAL.NS). This has forced even financially stressed power firms to place import orders.
"We understand that the material against deals struck in October will arrive in November," mjunction Chief Executive and Managing Director Viresh Oberoi said.
"We also anticipate that some of the vessels, the loading of which might have been delayed in October due to Hudhud, will arrive in November."
India's October coal imports were slightly higher than the 15.16 million tonnes brought in a year ago but was much lower than the 16.92 million imported in September.
Operations at four eastern Indian ports were affected by cyclone Hudhud, which slammed into the coast of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states last month killing at least 41 people and leaving hundreds homeless.
Some ports were congested even before the cyclone hit.
Mjunction said out of the total coal imported in October, shipments of power-generating thermal coal stood at 12.7 million tonnes and steelmaking coking coal at 1.92 million.
Anthracite, met coke and others made up the rest, said mjunction, whose provisional data is based on the monitoring of vessel positions and figures from shipping firms. The Indian government does not regularly release coal import data.
(Reporting by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Michael Urquhart)