| JOHANNESBURG, July 10
JOHANNESBURG, July 10 South Africa is talking to
Tehran about the prospect for Iran to insure its crude oil
cargoes, which can no longer be underwritten by European
insurance firms due to sanctions, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters
said on Tuesday.
Peters said Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim had met
his Iranian counterpart two weeks ago to discuss ways of getting
around the European clamp-down on insurance and reinsurance,
part of Western sanctions to halt Tehran's disputed nuclear
"They were discussing these sorts of issues," she told
Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Johannesburg.
A spokesman for South Africa's foreign ministry declined to
provide further details.
Iran used to be South Africa's main source of crude,
accounting for 30 percent of its imports, although Africa's
biggest economy has halved its average monthly shipments from
Iran this year to 280,000 tonnes because of U.S. diplomatic
South Africa has offset the cuts by increasing imports from
Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, Africa's top crude producer, but faces
the prospect of no imports from Iran from July 1, when the
European insurance curbs came into effect.
Around 90 percent of the world's tanker fleet is covered by
Western protection and indemnity (P&I) clubs, which insure
against personal injury and environmental clean-up claims.
Brussels has made clear it will not be offering unilateral
exceptions to the sanctions - as the United States has - but
diplomats say Europe does not object to third-party states
striking their own deals with Tehran to secure energy supplies.
"South Africa has a legitimate dependency issue," a senior
Western diplomat told Reuters this week. "We want them to get
off that, but in the meantime why not ask Tehran to pay for
insurance? They are in a very good position to negotiate."
Faced with the same problem, Japan has provided sovereign
guarantees for Iranian crude shipments, while India is allowing
state refiners to import Iranian oil, but with Tehran arranging
shipping and insurance from July 1.
(editing by Jane Baird)