Johannesburg - South Africa imported no crude oil from Iran
in June, customs data showed on Tuesday, a sign Pretoria may be cutting all
Iranian shipments to avoid US and European sanctions.
In May, imports from Iran stood at 285,524 tonnes.
Africa’s biggest economy used to import a quarter of its
crude from Iran but has come under Western pressure to cut the shipments as
part of sanctions designed to halt Tehran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear
June imports of crude from Saudi Arabia more than doubled to
1.17 million tonnes from the previous month, with other supplies coming from
Nigeria, Ecuador and Angola. Total imports stood at 1.95 million tonnes.
Even though the United States granted South Africa an
exemption from financial sanctions after cuts in Iranian imports in recent
months, Pretoria was still facing problems because of sanctions from the
European Union, which does not provide any waivers.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said earlier this month that
South Africa was also 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.
It is to be seen whether South Africa will continue to keep
imports from Iran at zero. The country already cut all shipments from that
country in January this year but resumed them again the following month.
The United States will also be watching to see if South
Africa continues to keep imports from Iran at bay.
When comparing monthly averages over a six-month period,
South Africa imported around 249,115 tonnes of crude from Iran per month in the
January to June period, compared with 403,171 tonnes in the preceding six
Some South African refineries are designed to treat
Iranian-type crude only, and analysts say they will be hard-pressed to replace
those supplies with other products.
Any disruption to crude imports could hit fuel supplies in
South Africa, which has suffered shortages in the last year because of strikes
and refinery problems.
Refiners in South Africa include Shell, BP, Total, Chevron,
petrochemicals group Sasol, and Engen, which is majority-owned by Malaysian
state oil group Petronas.