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JXTG to halt Iran oil loading early March unless Japan gets waiver extension

Tokyo — Japan's JXTG Holdings intends to suspend loading of Iranian oil in early March unless Japan secures an extension to its 180-day US sanctions waiver, a company executive said Friday.

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"We expect the final loading [of Iranian oil] to be in early March," said Yasushi Onoda, the company's director and senior vice president of corporate planning, at an earnings press conference in Tokyo.

Onoda said this is based on an assumption that the US sanctions waiver will expire in early May, by when it will have to finish the loading of Iranian oil, and complete all relevant transactions.

This comes after Onoda confirmed that the company's refining arm JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy had resumed its loading of Iranian barrels in early February.

"We have resumed imports of Iranian crude oil in early February, which will arrive at around the end of February," Onoda said.

S&P Global Platts reported that JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy is set to resume loading Iranian crude oil as early as Monday, almost three months after the US sanctions waiver was granted.

Platts trade flow software cFlow showed that the VLCC Eneos Breeze entered Iran's Kharg Island Monday and sailed off Tuesday to Saudi Arabia's Ras Tanura.

JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy is the fourth Japanese refiner to resume Iranian oil loading, after Showa Shell, Fuji Oil and Cosmo Oil resumed crude oil loading from the country in January -- the first in four months -- totaling around 4.9 million barrels.

Japan is among eight countries with the US' 180-day waiver, allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil through May 4.

Confusion surrounding shipping, insurance and banking rules under the US sanctions kept some countries from resuming imports after the US granted the waivers on November 5.

All transactions under the US State Department's current "significant reduction exemptions" must be completed by May 4. Fresh waivers would start May 5 for countries that the US determines have been able to significantly reduce Iranian imports in the previous six months.

-- Takeo Kumagai, takeo.kumagai@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Shashwat Pradhan, newsdesk@spglobal.com