Turkey's imports of Iranian oil hold steady in December

Julia Payne
January 4, 2013

LONDON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Turkey's imports of Iranian crude

oil have been holding steady at around 100,000 barrels per day

from September to December, data from a shipping source and

Reuters AIS Live showed.

Turkey's sole refiner Tupras received two Iranian

crude cargoes of 145,000 tonnes and one of 140,000 tonnes at the

Tutunciftlik import terminal in December. None went to the

country's other import terminal Aliaga.

November saw two cargoes go to Tutunciftlik and one to

Aliaga, while October had three cargoes delivered to

Tutunciftlik. Turkish official trade data pegged October imports

lower at around 75,000 bpd.

The volume is nearly half of its 2011 pre-sanction average

of around 180,000 bpd. Turkey sharply increased its Iranian oil

buys after sanctions were initially announced before reducing

them in the months up to July to secure a sanctions waiver from

the United States. Imports peaked at around 250,000-280,000 bpd

in early 2012.

Western nations have imposed a raft of sanctions on Iran

aimed at hampering the country's finances to prevent it from

developing an atomic bomb, while Tehran says its nuclear

activities are peaceful.

Turkey was granted an initial waiver on Iranian oil by the

United States for 180 days from June 11 after Ankara made an

initial 20 percent import cut before sanctions came into effect.

The exemption was renewed in early December for another 180

days.

Most of the crude oil delivered in November and December

arrived directly from Iran via the Suez Canal using various

Iranian National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) tankers, mainly

flagged in Tanzania.

In earlier months, the crude was only lifted from the

Egyptian port of Sidi Kerir, the end of the Sumed pipeline

linking the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. Iran's Blossom tanker,

also known as Baikal, would go back and forth between Egypt and

Turkey.

The European Union oil embargo, which came into full force

on July 1, also targeted the region's marine insurance sector,

which effectively cut off the usual avenues for tanker insurance

for Iran's remaining buyers, mainly South Korea, Japan, China,

India and Turkey.

State owned Tupras' imports initially sank in July when the

country was unable to insure its own tankers to lift Iranian

crude. The country had to switch to Iranian-owned oil tankers,

which raises questions over safety.

Turkey has been lifting Iraqi, Kazakh, Russian and Saudi

crude to replace the missing Iranian oil.

Imports are steady for now but fresh U.S. sanctions could

further complicate Iran's oil exports as a provision due to come

into effect on Feb. 6 will make it difficult for buyers to pay

Iran.

Iranian oil lifters have been using elaborate mechanisms

through various countries and banks to pay Iran's national oil

company. But from February, any bank that repatriates the money

or transfers it to a third country will risk breaching

sanctions.

The new provision will hit India and Japan, particularly,

while South Korea and China already have mounting debts to Iran.

As the flow of petrodollars slows, barter could become the main

payment method.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)