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Japan May Have Loaded Its Last Iranian Oil Cargo

A Japanese buyer has loaded Iranian oil on a tanker expected to arrive in Japan in early October, in what could be the last purchase of Iranian oil before the U.S. sanctions snap back in early November, while Japanese refiners and buyers are replacing Iranian oil with other Middle Eastern alternatives, market and shipping sources told S&P Global Platts on Friday. 

The Yufusan very large crude carrier (VLCC) has loaded Iranian oil at Assaluyeh and Kharg Island, and more oil at Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait, and is set to dock in Japan on October 3, according to S&P Global Platts trade flow data.  

Japan is still negotiating with the United States on possible waivers for Iranian oil imports, but no breakthrough in talks has been reported. According to a Platts source, Japanese buyers will look to settle all transactions for Iranian oil by November 2 because the sanctions return on November 5. 

Uncertain if a waiver will be forthcoming, but not wanting to risk secondary sanctions if they continued to buy Iranian oil, Japanese refiners have been on the lookout to replace its Iranian oil. According to Platts sources, Japanese buyers of Iranian oil have purchased or looked to purchase oil from Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq in the Middle East, as well as Mars crude from the United States.

Earlier this month, major Japanese refiners were said to have officially notified Iran that they would halt all imports of Iranian oil for October while they wait for the Japan-U.S. talks on Iranian oil imports to make a permanent decision on how to proceed in November.

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Idemitsu Kosan and Cosmo Energy Holdings have notified Iran of their plans for October, while top Japanese refiner JXTG Holdings Inc, as well as Fuji Oil Co, which relies heavily on Iranian oil, have decided to temporarily suspend imports from Iran, Jiji Press reported, citing sources in the know.

Japan is still trying to secure a waiver from the United States to avoid its refiners coming under secondary sanctions as importers of Iranian oil. In the meantime, Japanese companies are playing it safe and are halting imports as U.S.-Japanese waiver talks show little progress, according to Jiji Press’s sources.

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A Cosmo Energy official told S&P Global Platts in early September that it would not load any Iranian oil for the month of October, but it had yet to make a final decision on imports from Iran in November and beyond, as it was still holding onto hopes that it may secure a waiver.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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