Japan’s November Iran oil imports surge to most since March


By Jacob Adelman

Japan’s crude imports from Iran more than doubled in November from the previous month to the highest level since March, as the Asian country boosted purchases despite sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.

Oil purchases rose to 1.25 million kiloliters, or about 261,000 barrels a day, up from 469,024 kiloliters in October, according to data today from the Ministry of Finance. Imports in March were 1.75 million.

Japan is boosting Iranian purchases to broaden its supply base after imports fell to as low as 418,203 kiloliters in August to comply with Western sanctions, according to Osamu Fujisawa, an independent energy economist in Tokyo who worked for Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K.

“They are trying to diversify their crude sources and Iran is one of the important countries for Japan,” said Fujisawa, who added that total imports from Iran this year are still far below last year’s levels. “If you average it, it’s not so high.”

Japan imported an average of 930,982 kiloliters of crude during the first 11 months of this year, down 39 percent from 1.51 million during the same period last year. Last month’s imports were 19 percent lower than in November 2011, when Japan bought 1.53 million kiloliters from Iran.
Waiver Extension

Japan’s total crude purchases last month fell 6.2 percent from a year ago to 16.1 million kiloliters, the finance ministry said Dec. 19.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton extended Japan’s exemption from sanctions on banks doing business with Iran for a second six-month term in September because of the steps taken to reduce imports. The country was the world’s biggest buyer of Iranian crude after China in the first half of 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The U.S. sanctions, and separate European Union measures that prohibit insurers from covering vessels carrying Iranian cargoes, aim to halt Iran’s atomic program. U.S. and EU officials say Iran’s nuclear development is aimed at producing atomic weapons, while the government in Tehran says the project is for civilian purposes.

The finance ministry’s data is based on a tally of shipments that have cleared Japanese customs. Japan’s trade ministry is scheduled to release separate statistics tomorrow based on data collected from buyers via questionnaire.