Japan Halts Iran Oil Imports Ahead of Waiver Expiration

By Staff Writer

Japanese refineries have stopped buying Iran regime’s oil ahead of the expiration of the temporary US sanctions waiver that is due to expire in May, industry sources and data on Refinitiv Eikon shows, after importing 15.3 million barrels between January and March.

It is believed that Japanese refiners, along with their banks and insurance companies, want to allow enough time for all cargoes already loaded to arrive in Japan and for payments to be completed before the May deadline.

A Fuji Oil spokesman said: “We think it would be difficult to keep on lifting Iranian oil after March.”

The last Iranian oil cargo is expected to arrive at Chiba, Japan, on April 9.

Last November, the US reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports and urged all countries to stop importing oil from the country, after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May, citing the Regime’s secret cheating on the deal.

However, in an effort to stabilise the oil market, Washington granted temporary waivers to eight of Iran’s biggest oil clients — Japan, China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

Before the waivers were announced, Japanese refiners stopped loading Iranian oil in mid-September. They only began importing again in late January after banks received government assurances about processing payments to the Iranian regime.

Refinitiv data and Reuters calculations show that the 15.3 million barrels of Iranian crude imported by Japan in 2019 so far is equivalent to 86,430 barrels per day over the six-month waiver period. This shows a drop of about 33% from the average of 129,300 barrels per day imported between January and September last year. This is more than the 20% reduction that the US had asked for from the countries granted sanctions waivers.

During the September through January period, Japan increased imports from the Middle East, Russia and the Americas and will likely do so again. However, Japanese refiners are urging their government to seek an extension to the sanctions waivers from May onwards and Japan on Wednesday extended state-backed insurance to cover imports of oil from Iran for another year.

Takayuki Nogami, the chief economist at Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp, said: “I think the waiver could be extended, but maybe for a smaller volume and for a smaller number of countries.”

Japanese and American officials met in Washington earlier this month to discuss the matter. However, the US is set on not extending the sanctions waivers.

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