JAKARTA - Indonesia's government is hoping to reach a decision on resuming coal shipments in the coming days, its energy minister said on Monday, as pressure mounts on the world's biggest thermal coal exporter to end a ban imposed at New Year.

"We have done stocktaking and we hope in coming days there will be more clarity so we can have coal security and resume exports," energy minister Arifin Tasrif said in a meeting with Japan's industry minister, Koichi Hagiuda, which was broadcast virtually.

Japan is among several countries which have pressed Indonesia to ease its coal exports suspension, which was imposed on Jan. 1 after state power utility PLN reported critically low inventory levels of the fuel, putting it on the brink of widespread power outages.

The Philippines on Monday joined Japan and South Korea in urging Indonesia to lift the restrictions. 

Minister Hagiuda said at the meeting that Japanese companies wanted clarity from Indonesia.

"Also, there are some Japanese ships that have already been loaded (with coal), so if it takes time to make an adjustment.

"We would like to ask you to at least allow those ships to leave for Japan."

Japan's embassy in Jakarta last week asked Indonesia to exclude from the ban high-calorific coal, which is not used by domestic power plants.



Although authorities have said the coal supply emergency was over at PLN, the government has said it still needs to address other issues before lifting the ban. 

Discussions on the issue were expected to resume on Monday, focusing on logistics issues, industry officials told Reuters.

Shipping companies were working to reach the best solution to meet PLN's coal demand, said Carmelita Hartoto, chairperson of Indonesia Shipowners Association, which has been involved in the coal talks.

A PLN spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for details on its latest supply situation.

Pandu Sjahrir, chairman of Indonesia Coal Miners Association (ICMA), said PLN is estimated to have 10 days of coal supply.

The power company has said it had secured 13.9 million tonnes of coal but wants 20 million tonnes to reach a 20-day inventory level for its power plants.

"We are ready to supply coal for the amount that PLN wants," Pandu said.

"The issue now is about shipment, but there should be a solution for this soon."

Fabby Tumiwa, executive director at the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), an energy think tank, said transporting coal to power plants could take up to 10 days, but during wet periods such as January, loading alone could take up to four days, depending on vessel size and infrastructure.

Fabby said smaller miners also face risks of their coal not meeting the specifications of PLN, which has no coal blending facility.

"It is risky to ship their coal only to be rejected by PLN. They also cannot use small barges if they want to ship to PLN's plants in Java and Sumatra," Fabby said.

"They need larger vessels, which mean they need to wait for their coal to be pooled together ... It is a complicated logistic challenge."

(Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo Editing by Martin Petty) ((Fransiska.Nangoy@thomsonreuters.com;))