March 28 (Bloomberg) -- Japan’s crude imports from Iran rose 16 percent in February from a year earlier to the highest level since March 2012, boosting its intake despite sanctions against the Middle Eastern nation.
Oil purchases last month climbed to 1.43 million kiloliters, or about 321,000 barrels a day, up from 1.23 million kiloliters in February 2012, according to data today from the Ministry of Finance. Imports were up 67 percent from 857,700 kiloliters in January, according to the data. Shipments from Iran in March 2012 were 1.75 million.
Japan’s total crude purchases dropped 2.7 percent in February to 18.7 million kiloliters, the finance ministry said March 21.
Refiners have reduced their imports on a yearly basis so they probably aren’t concerned that a single month of increased purchases from Iran could jeopardize Japan’s waiver from sanctions, said Osamu Fujisawa, an independent energy economist in Tokyo who worked for Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. The U.S. and its allies have banned banks from doing business with the Persian Gulf nation to entice it to halt its nuclear program.
“I don’t think the oil companies are worrying about Iranian crude imports,” Fujisawa said. “They take a look at the annual figures from last year and see they were quite low.”
Japan’s purchases from Iran last year declined 39 percent to 11.1 million kiloliters from 18.2 million kiloliters in 2011, according to the finance ministry.
The U.S. extended Japan’s exemption from sanctions for six months because of the Asian country’s steps to reduce imports, Secretary of State John Kerry said March 13.
The U.S. and the European Union have said Iran’s nuclear development is aimed at producing weapons, while the government in Tehran says the project is for civilian purposes. Along with the U.S. sanctions, the EU has passed measures prohibiting insurers from covering vessels carrying Iranian oil cargoes.
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