Japan is the last of the four biggest Iranian oil buyers in Asia to resume imports after receiving a waiver from US 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, Reuters wrote.
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 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 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 met.
Still, the Iranian exports to Japan, the world’s fourth-biggest oil importer, 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 in March.
“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 since US President Donald Trump said in May 2018 the United States would withdraw from a pact on Iran’s 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 2017.
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.
South Korea imports
Data on Refinitiv Eikon showed on Monday that South Korea received on Saturday its first Iranian oil cargo in four months.
NITC tanker Silvia 1 discharged close to 1 million barrels of condensate, a light oil typically produced in association with natural gas, on Jan. 19 at Incheon port, it showed.
Another NITC tanker Sana carrying the same volume of condensate is expected to arrive in South Korea on Jan. 31, according to Refinitiv data.
South Korean buyers of Iranian crude and condensate include SK Energy and SK Incheon Petrochemical, owned by SK Innovation, Hyundai Oilbank Corp and Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co.