Russia's coal shipments to China fell by almost a quarter on the year in January and February as sanctions and trade-related duties weighed, customs data showed on Wednesday.

Most of Russia's lost market share was replaced by higher shipments from Australia and Mongolia, with China's overall coal imports expected to be largely flat in 2024.

China's coal shipments from Russia dropped 22% to 11.49 million tons during the first two months of 2024, its General Administration of Customs said.

That was in line with estimates by a Chinese industry association last week that U.S. sanctions imposed in February targeting top exporters Suek and Mechel would affect about a fifth of Russia's coal exports.

China combines output data for January and February into one release to smooth out the impact of the Lunar New Year holidays, which can fall in either month.

On top of the sanctions, key suppliers Russia and Mongolia must now pay reinstated import tariffs of 3% to 6% from January.

Russia also set its own export duties on coal from the beginning of March. March exports of the commodity from Russia are set to hit their lowest in at least seven years, ship tracking data from Kpler showed.

Despite the tariffs, imports from Mongolia, a key supplier of coking coal to China, rose by 24% to 10.19 million tons, as transport logistics improved.

That puts Mongolia on track to meet or exceed its target of selling 60 million tons of coal abroad this year, with most of its exports destined for neighbouring China.

Indonesia, which is exempted from China's import tariffs because of a free trade pact, stayed its biggest supplier but shipments fell by 7% to 32.47 million tons.

China's imports of Indonesian coal will fall to 200 million tons this year, from 220.25 last year, an official of a major Chinese utility told a coal industry event this month.

That comes despite expectations for Indonesia's overall exports to rise by about 2.1%, as it sells more to energy-hungry India.

China's coal imports from Australia, which is also exempt from the tariffs, rose to 10.76 million tons from a mere 207,236 tons in February 2023, after Beijing lifted an unofficial ban on Australian coal sellers.

But that represented less than half of Australia's pre-ban shipments of 21.85 million tons in January and February 2020. (Reporting by Colleen Howe; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)