Japanese refiners load first Iran oil cargo since U.S.
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[January 21, 2019]
By Yuka Obayashi and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin
TOKYO/LONDON (Reuters) - Japanese refiners
have loaded Iranian oil onto a tanker, resuming imports after halting
purchases because of sanctions by the United States, a spokesman for a
Japanese refinery and an Iranian official said on Monday.
Japan is the last of the four biggest Iranian oil buyers in Asia to
resume imports after receiving a waiver from U.S. sanctions on crude
imports that started in November. China and India maintained their
imports after November while South Korea halted imports for four months,
resuming them over the weekend.
Iran is the fourth-largest oil producer among the members of the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
"After China, South Korea, India and Turkey, Japan also started the
process of importing Iranian oil," Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of
the Central Bank of Iran, said according to the state news agency IRNA.
Japanese refiner Fuji Oil Co <5017.T> lifted a cargo of Iranian crude
oil over the weekend, a company spokesman said.
The very large crude carrier (VLCC) Kisogawa loaded about 2 million
barrels of Iranian oil on Sunday and is expected to reach Japan on Feb.
9, according to the Fuji spokesman and Refinitiv Eikon data. Fuji Oil
owns about half of the oil onboard, while Showa Shell Sekiyu KK <5002.T>
owns the remainder, the Fuji spokesman said.
"It took a while for us to resume imports of Iranian oil," he said,
adding that the biggest hurdle was to get banks to agree to handle
payments to Iran.
A Showa Shell spokesman declined to comment on specific deals, adding
that it has an option to resume Iran oil imports if all conditions are
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Oil takners pass through the Strait of Hormuz, December 21, 2018.
REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Still, the Iranian exports to Japan, the world's fourth-biggest oil import, may
be short-lived as two buyers based in Japan said they may not be able to
continue after annual tanker insurance backed by the Japanese government expires
"We have already bought oil in case we can't take Iranian cargoes for March
loading," one of the buyers said.
Iran's oil exports have fallen sharply since U.S. President Donald Trump said in
May 2018 the United States would withdraw from a pact curtailing Iran's disputed
nuclear program and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Japan stopped oil imports from Iran in November when the sanctions came into
effect. Iranian oil accounted for 5.3 percent of Japan's total crude imports in
However, waivers were granted to Iran's biggest oil clients - Japan, China,
India, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Greece and Turkey - which allow them to
import some oil for another 180 days.
On Saturday, South Korea received its first Iranian oil cargo in four months.
(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in LONDON and Yuka Obayashi in TOKYO;
additional reporting by Florence Tan in SINGAPORE; editing by Christian
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