Japan refiners want force majeure to cover Iran oil shipping ban

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Tokyo (Platts)–1Mar2012/501 am EST/1001 GMT

Japanese refiners have stepped up efforts to get an additional force majeure clause included in Iranian crude oil contracts that could be invoked if tankers cannot call on Iran‘s ports to lift barrels because of the loss of insurance cover, sources close to the matter told Platts Thursday.

The latest move comes as Japanese refiners are trying to conclude term contracts with the National Iranian Oil Company starting in April.

Negotiations have already been delayed and nominations for April supplies are now due to be submitted by March 5, sources said.

Japanese buyers, which normally conclude their Iranian crude contracts in February, have not been able to complete their term contracts as they wait for what the sources said are guidelines from the government on the outcome of talks between the government and the US.

Japan is seeking an exemption from US sanctions that would exclude any company or country dealing with Iran’s central bank from the US financial system by agreeing to reduce its imports of Iranian crude oil.

The EU sanctions not only forbid the import and transportation of Iranian oil, but also ban insurance cover for vessels carrying Iranian cargoes. And because of pooling arrangements for reinsurance between the various Protection and Indemnity clubs around the world, the sanctions will have an impact on non-EU shipping.

Reports so far about the talks under way with Washington suggest that Tokyo may agree to cut its oil imports from Iran by 10-20% from a 2011 level of 310,000 b/d to ensure that Japanese banks are not excluded from the US financial system. Iran was the fourth-largest supplier of crude to Japan last year.

Japanese refiners, the main buyers of Iranian oil in Japan, are now also concerned with the possibility that they may be unable to lift Iranian crude oil if shipowners cannot get insurance cover for voyages to Iran when EU sanctions come into effect on July 1, the sources said.

Japanese shipping sources said the EU sanctions on insurance provision for tankers carrying Iranian crude oil have become a matter of concern for both oil companies and shipowners.
A chartering source at a Japanese oil company said that “every oil company” in Japan that wants to renew its term contract with Iran in April “wanted a force majeure clause” inserted to cover the shipping ban.

“They have sent this to NIOC but there has been no reply [so far],” the source said, referring to the National Iranian Oil Company.
The chartering source said the Japanese companies want to insert a clause stating that “if shipowners cannot call” on Iranian ports and “the cargo cannot be lifted,” then force majeure can be invoked.

The sources said that at least one Japanese buyer of Iranian oil may not submit a nomination for April supplies because of uncertainty about the impact of the EU insurance ban and the negotiations with Washington.

–Takeo Kumagai, takeo_kumagai@platts.com
–Pradeep Rajan, pradeep_rajan@platts.com

Posted on March 1, 2012, in Asia, Economic Sanctions, GEOPOLITICS, Iran, Middle East and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Japan refiners want force majeure to cover Iran oil shipping ban.

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