Reuters reports that Japanese traders are looking to resume oil imports from Iraq, possibly by the end of this year.
According to the report, Japanese firms have so far avoided Iranian crude due to a lack of internationally acceptable insurance coverage, but are looking at ways of using cover provided by the Japanese government.
Buyers have taken advantage of a scheme put together by ship owners to plug a shortfall in insurance cover due to ongoing restrictions on U.S.-domiciled reinsurers, but Japanese firms have been reluctant to take part.
Trading houses have been waiting for private shipping insurance to return to full coverage, which could come as early as this year. But some traders now hope to piggyback on a Japanese government scheme that has been providing ongoing cover for so-called “essential” imports of Iranian oil throughout the sanctions.
Earlier this month, Mitsui is reported to have resumed taking Iranian oil for the first time since at least 2012, co-loading Iranian condensate with a major Japanese refiner on a tanker.
A source at Marubeni told Reuters that the company, which bought Iranian crude, condensate, naphtha and fuel oil until 2012, has been working to restart purchases by the end of the year.
Sumitomo, which bought liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Iran before the sanctions, is also believed to be looking to buy Iranian oil and LPG.
Itochu said it was considering resuming imports of Iranian oil, while trading house Kanematsu, which last bought Iran crude in 2010, is also looking to resume purchases.