July 30, 2012 / 1:35 AM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Japan's Iranian crude imports jump in June from May

* Crude imports from Iran rise 60.5 percent from May

* Japan’s Jan-June imports of Iranian crude drop from year ago

* Japan turns to other suppliers including Oman, Russia, Indonesia

* July imports likely to be zero in July, but to resume in Aug (Recasts to month-on-month gain, adds links to table and factbox)

TOKYO, July 30 (Reuters) - Japan’s crude oil imports from Iran in June rose 60.5 percent from May as refiners ramped up loadings before a halt in oil flows this month due to the imposition of sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

Customs-cleared imports from Iran rose to 812,693 kilolitres (170,389 barrels per day) in June from 106,162 bpd in the previous month, Ministry of Finance data showed on Monday. Imports were down 33.9 percent from a year earlier.

The United States and Europe are trying to squeeze the revenue Iran makes from oil exports in order to force it to halt a nuclear programme they fear will be used to make weapons, but which Tehran says is for power generation.

Japan, Iran’s third-biggest oil buyer, is likely to import no oil from Iran in July after stopping loadings in early June so as to avoid running foul of the EU sanctions from July 1 that forbid European insurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world.

Japan, which needs to import more oil to produce electricity after the Fukushima nuclear disaster shut most of its reactors, restarted loading from Iran on July 20 meaning imports should resume sometime in August.

The world’s third-largest economy imported 5.2 percent more oil in June, or about 3.4 million barrels a day, and turned to other supplies including Oman, Russia and Indonesia to meet the shortfall from Iran.

Purchases from Oman rose more than 700 percent in June, while those from Russia and Indonesia were up 181 percent and 41 percent respectively.

IRAN RESUMPTION

The resumption of Iranian imports from next month was made possible after Japan’s government agreed to step in and provide insurance cover of up to $7.6 billion for shipments to keep its oil trade with Tehran going.

It’s unlikely though that imports will rebound to last year’s levels because Japan agreed to cut purchases to obtain a waiver from U.S. financial sanctions on the OPEC member.

Iran is feeling the pain as the sanctions sap the crucial source of foreign exchange for the country.

The value of Japan’s imports from Iran for the first half of the year fell 26.8 percent to 380.1 billion yen ($4.83 billion) from a year earlier as imports fell by more than a third.

Purchases from Iran for the first six months of 2012 totalled 227,573 bpd, down 33.4 percent from a year earlier.

In June, the value of Iran imports declined 31.2 percent to 47.3 billion yen from a year ago.

OTHER ASIAN BUYERS

South Korea, another major Asian consumer of Iranian crude along with Japan, China and India, will also halt shipments of Iranian oil in July because of the EU insurance ban but a minister said it was “highly likely” to resume imports soon. {ID:nL4E8IQ320]

China’s oil imports from Iran rose to their highest in nearly a year in June at 633,000 bpd despite the sanctions, although traders expect them to be lower in July.

India has also allowed state refiners to import Iranian oil, with Tehran arranging shipping and insurance, from July 1, to keep purchases flowing. ($1 = 78.6300 Japanese yen) (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Ed Davies)

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