SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea resumed imports of Iranian oil in January after a four-month hiatus, customs data showed on Friday, but shipments were down 76 percent from the same month last year.
The world’s fifth-largest crude importer won a six-month waiver in November from U.S. sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, but did not immediately start imports, mainly due to payment and insurance issues.
South Korea, one of Iran’s biggest Asian customers, imported 227,941 tonnes of Iranian crude in January, or 53,676 barrels per day (bpd), data from the country’s customs office showed. This was well down on 950,013 tonnes of Iranian crude a year earlier.
Overall, South Korea shipped in 12.46 million tonnes of crude oil in January, or 2.94 million bpd, down 5.9 percent from 13.25 million tonnes from a year earlier, according to the customs data.
Oil shipments from Saudi Arabia, the country’s top oil supplier, fell 4.8 percent to 3.51 million tonnes in January year on year, as the kingdom continued to curb its output under a supply deal led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In January, OPEC’s oil output fell by about 800,000 bpd to 30.81 million bpd, and the biggest supply drop came from Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of the oil cartel.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s imports of U.S. crude oil nearly tripled to 1.12 million tonnes in January from 394,331 tonnes a year earlier, reflecting a firm appetite for U.S. oil on the back of tight Middle East supplies.
State-run Korea National Oil Corp (KNOC) will issue final crude oil import data later this month.
Reporting by Jane Chung; editing by Richard Pullin