Hopes that Indonesia would lift its coal export ban on Wednesday were dashed after government ministers said they still needed to ensure that there was enough domestic supply. Energy minister Arifin Tasrif said at a press briefing following Wednesday’s ministerial review of the ban that the government was waiting for the state utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) firm to give formal notification that it had secured enough coal before a decision could be taken to end the ban. Tasrif said that he expected to receive confirmation about PLN’s adequate supplies in the very near future.

He cautioned that once a decision was taken to lift the ban, it would not lead to an immediate full resumption of coal exports. Instead, the issuance of export permits would be done in a step-by-step manner with priority given to miners who had fulfilled their domestic market obligations, which requires them to sell 25% of their production output to PLN at a below market price of $70 per tonne.

The export ban, which was implemented on 1 January is believed by brokers and shipping agencies to have tied up in the region of 200 panamax and supramax bulkers that are either loaded, loading, or awaiting loading. More bulkers are reportedly drifting outside of ports while their charterers or owners ponder their next move after shippers declared Force Majeure. Other bulkers are reported to have diverted to Australia or South Africa as coal buyers seek urgently needed coal supplies elsewhere.

Indonesia exports about 400 MMT of coal per year. With half of January’s exports removed from the market, the countries that are major importers of Indonesian coal have been putting pressure on the Indonesian government to rescind the ban as they too fear shortages at power plants. On Monday Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs said that 14 ships already loaded with coal would be able to depart. However, on Wednesday it had emerged that none of these ships had sailed because local officials responsible for issuing sailing permits were insisting on formal notification from the Ministry of Transport. Pandjaitan said on Thursday that Indonesia has now allowed 37 vessels with previously loaded coal to leave the country .

Indonesian coal industry sources told TradeWinds on Tuesday that some ships were continuing to load coal at the country’s loading anchorages and terminals, but they expected the delays and chaos caused by the ban to extend for weeks, or even months, after it is finally lifted.