Oil Imports From Iran Double in Japan Despite Western Sanctions

Japan’s crude imports from Iran more than doubled in May from a year earlier despite sanctions against the Persian Gulf country.

Crude imports rose to 1.09 million kiloliters, or about 222,000 barrels a day, up from about 523,000 kiloliters in May 2012, according to data today from the Ministry of Finance. Purchases from Iran in April of this year were about 530,000 kiloliters.

The U.S. extended Japan’s exemption in March from sanctions on banks doing business with Iran for a third six-month term based on additional reductions in the volume of oil purchases from the country. Japan imported 4.77 million kiloliters of Iranian crude in the five months ended May, down about 17 percent from a year earlier, the finance ministry’s data shows.

Japanese companies will unlikely increase oil imports from Iran on a quarterly or annual basis because of possible sanctions, said Osamu Fujisawa, an independent energy economist in Tokyo who worked for Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. It’s not difficult for buyers to replace Iranian supply with oil from other sources, Fujisawa said.

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

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