Seaborne receipts in March were 3.95mn t, provisional customs data show. This was down from a revised 4.5mn t in the same month last year but more than double from February. Vietnamese customs data do not differentiate between coking coal and thermal coal.
The year-on-year drop followed steady consumption of seaborne cargoes during last year, which propelled 2020 imports to an all-time high. But a surge in coronavirus cases since the start of this year, coupled with higher international freight rates in recent weeks, eroded some demand for imported coal.
Vietnam's gross domestic product grew 4.48pc in the first quarter from the same period a year earlier, despite strict measures in parts of Vietnam to curb Covid-19. The economy had expanded by 3.68pc in the same quarter a year earlier.
Authorities are gradually letting several businesses in parts of the country reopen after remaining shut for weeks to curb infections. This has supported power demand. Overall electricity generation rose to 20.7TWh last month, up from 19.79TWh in the same month of 2020, according to the general statistics office. Generation was 15.14TWh in February.
Cement production in March was 8.3mn t, easing from 8.7mn t a year earlier but up from 5.6mn t in February. Vietnam also produced 2.14mn t of crude steel last month, up from February's 1.86mn t and 2.11mn t in March 2020.
Vietnam's domestic coal production outstripped imports in March. Domestic output was 4.95mn t, up from 4.78mn t a year earlier and 3.91mn t in February.
Indonesian imports rise
Indonesian coal accounted for the bulk of Vietnam's thermal coal imports in March at 1.82mn t, down from 2.08mn t a year earlier.
Australian supplies to Vietnam eased further after holding steady in recent months with China's unofficial ban on Australian coal. Vietnam imported 1.32mn t of Australian coal last month, easing from 1.56mn t a year earlier. Imports of Russian coal rose to 493,280t in March from 410,052t a year earlier.
The outlook for Vietnam's coal output remains firm, given a string of scheduled and under-construction generation projects. Vietnam will likely continue to develop 15 planned coal-fired power projects with a combined capacity of 18GW during 2021-26, sustainable energy think-tank the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said last year.