SA suspends Iran imports again

Johannesburg - South Africa suspended all imports of crude oil from Iran for a seventh consecutive month in December, data showed on Thursday, as Pretoria steered clear of the shipments because of sanctions.

South Africa used to import a quarter of its crude from Iran but has come under Western pressure to reduce the purchases as part of sanctions aimed at halting Tehran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks in parliament in Tehran, in this file picture. Credit: Reuters

In May last year, imports from Iran stood at 285,524 tonnes but since June, Africa's biggest economy has replaced the shipments with crude from other suppliers.

Saudi Arabia was again the major supplier in December with shipments of 808,629 tonnes, data from the South African Revenue Service showed. Other crude imports were from Nigeria, Angola, Ghana and Yemen, with shipments totalling 1.48 million tonnes.

While the United States extended South Africa's exemption from financial sanctions last month due to the Iranian cuts, Pretoria is still hampered by European Union sanctions that prevent insurance companies from underwriting Iranian shipments.

The EU has not granted any waivers, even though South Africa has been lobbying Brussels because it has to pay more to source crude from countries other than Iran.

Also, some of the South African refineries are designed to treat Iranian-type crude only and require modifications to accept other products.

Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron, petrochemicals group Sasol, and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian state oil group Petronas. - Reuters