Asia's April Iran Oil Imports Rise 13%

Asia's April Iran Oil Imports Rise 13%Asia's April Iran Oil Imports Rise 13%

Asian imports of Iranian oil in April rose by more than 13% from a year ago, as Tehran vies to recoup market share lost under international sanctions, with shipments into India and South Korea offsetting a big slump in purchases by Japan.

Iran's biggest oil clients together imported 1.3 million barrels per day in April, according to official government and tanker tracking data. Its total oil exports to Asia are set to surge nearly 60% in May from a year earlier to 2.3 million bpd, Reuters reported.

April imports by Iran's biggest buyers would have been higher had Japan not halted loadings in March over shipping insurance concerns that have since been resolved. Japan on Tuesday announced its official oil import figures for April, following data earlier from China, India and South Korea.

China's imports from Iran fell more than 5% to just over 670,000 bpd in April, while India's surged nearly 50% to around 390,000 bpd. South Korea's imports rose nearly 90% to 237,000 bpd. Japan's shipments fell 72% to less than 20,000 bpd.

For several years before 2012, Iran exported around 2.5 million bpd, with more than half going to Asia, mainly China, South Korea, India and Japan.

The country is also boosting shipments to Europe via international tankers while the state-owned National Iranian Tanker Company, which owns the world's largest fleet of crude carriers, is still facing difficulties to send its tankers to European waters.

Mohsen Qamsari, director of international affairs at the National Iranian Oil Company, said in April that more than one-third of Iran's total crude exports in the post-sanctions period are bound for Europe.

Keeping the upward momentum on exports may be challenging for Iran, as Middle Eastern rivals are also vying for market share on the back of a surge in crude prices in recent weeks.

Iraq will supply 5 million barrels of extra crude in June to raise market share ahead of an OPEC meeting this week, industry sources said this week.  Top exporter Saudi Arabia is also offering extra crude as its rivalry with Iran shifts to oil markets.