* Iran 7th biggest oil supplier to India in April-Feb vs 3rd
* India imported about 271,200 bpd from Iran in April-Feb
* Feb imports from Iran drop 43 percent y/y, steepest
decline since Nov
* Total crude imports in Feb at 4.06 million bpd, up 20.66
By Nidhi Verma
NEW DELHI, March 25 India's oil imports from
Iran fell 24 percent in the first 11 months of the contract
year, data from trade sources showed, as New Delhi struggles
with new insurance woes that may trigger more cutbacks in
shipments from the sanctions-hit nation.
India shipped in about 259,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil
from the OPEC-member in February, a decline of nearly 43 percent
from a year ago, the data showed on Monday. That was the second
steepest year-on-year drop in the year that began in April 2012,
since a decline of 44 percent in November.
The United States and the European Union last year
introduced sanctions aimed at Iran's oil trade in a bid to force
Tehran to the negotiating table over its disputed nuclear
programme. Now a reinsurance issue that had earlier affected the
ability of shipowners to insure tankers carrying Iranian oil has
become a problem for refiners trying to cover their facilities.
India has sought clarification from the EU on reinsurance
after refiners warned they will halt imports from Iran as local
insurers have refused to cover plants processing the oil. The
insurers have said they can no longer count on hedging their
risk with European reinsurers.
India is now looking at setting up a special fund to back
state insurers for providing cover to refineries processing
Iranian oil, the country's oil secretary said on Sunday.
Last year the Indian government similarly stepped in to
provide emergency insurance to local ships carrying Iranian oil
but it was a fraction of the $1 billion liability coverage that
a supertanker would typically need and has rarely been used.
India, the world's fourth biggest oil importer and the
second largest buyer of Iranian crude behind China, shipped in
about 271,200 bpd oil from Iran in the period from April to
February, the trade data showed, below the government's target
of 310,000 bpd for this fiscal year ending March 31, 2013.
The February shipments from Iran were down about 10 percent
from January volumes.
Iran's major Asian clients - China, India, Japan and South
Korea - have all cut imports heavily to secure waivers and
continued access to the U.S. financial system.
New Delhi has reduced Iran's role as a supplier, so that it
contributed about 7.3 percent of all imports in the period from
last April to February, compared to 11 percent a year earlier.
In the April-February period, Iran was the seventh biggest
oil supplier to India, down from the number three slot a year
ago. Prior to the last fiscal year, it had held the second
position for five years.
Overall, India imported about 4.06 million bpd of oil in
February, up 20.7 percent from a year earlier, as the country
expanded its refining capacity.
To replace lost Iranian volumes, India's imports of oil from
Latin America have more than doubled in April to February, with
the region accounting for about 17.3 percent of overall imports,
up from about 9.5 percent a year ago.
The Middle East region supplied about 61 percent of India's
oil imports in April-February, compared with nearly 70.4 percent
a year ago.
(Editing by Tom Hogue)