Iran crude exports to hit post-sanction low in December

Updated 07 December 2012
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Iran crude exports to hit post-sanction low in December

TOKYO: Iran’s crude exports are set to drop by about a quarter in December from the preceding month to the lowest level since tough sanctions were applied this year, shipping sources said, as the OPEC-member comes under pressure to curb its nuclear program.
Oil shipments by Iran have more than halved in 2012 due to US and European sanctions on its oil trade, straining Tehran’s finances, pressuring its currency and igniting inflation.
While the exact reasons for December’s sharp drop are not clear, sources in China said Iran may be struggling to find enough tankers to ship the crude as more and more are being used to store unsold oil.
Most of the crude is scheduled to head to energy hungry Asian buyers — China, India, Japan and South Korea — with the drop in December shipments from November representing a loss of about $ 800 million for Iran at current oil prices.
China, Iran’s top trading partner, is expected to drive the cut by lifting its lowest volume of the year, said the sources, who declined to be identified because of policies on talking to the media.
Iran’s customers, including Turkey, the only non-Asian buyer, will lift 834,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude in December compared with 1.08 million bpd in November, an industry source with direct knowledge of Tehran’s shipping plans said. The numbers are preliminary and actual imports may vary.
The December number would make Iranian crude imports by Asia’s top buyers for the full year at about 1.06 million bpd, down roughly a quarter from a year ago, Reuters calculations show.
The US, which is due to decide this month on whether to renew 180-day waivers from sanctions for importers of Iranian oil, wants to see buyers progressively cut purchases.
Washington says Tehran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful purposes.
The architects of US sanctions legislation, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Mark Kirk, have urged the White House to require oil importers to reduce purchases by 18 percent or more to qualify for further exemption.
China’s imports from Iran are down 22 percent on the year to 426,000 bpd in January-October, the months for which official data is available.
South Korea has reduced purchases 39 percent to 148,000 bpd and Japan 41 percent to 188,000 bpd over the same period. In contrast, India has raised imports to 328,000 bpd, up 7 percent.
Of Iran’s top four clients in Asia, Japan has already secured a renewal of its exemption while exemptions for India, South Korea and China are due to be decided this month.
Market nerves over the impact of sanctions on supply pushed Brent crude futures to a high of $ 128 a barrel in March and have kept the benchmark over $ 100 for most of this year.
Iranian exports took a deep hit from July once European Union sanctions banning insurance cover for ships carrying Iranian oil came into force. Shipments recovered in October to 1.3 million bpd from 1.0 million seen in the two previous months, the International Energy Agency said.
December loading by China is put at about 242,000 bpd, the lowest this year. Including November’s estimated 382,000 bpd, the average rate for the two months would be around 312,000 bpd, nearly 25 percent below the January-October rate of 424,000 bpd.
China, India and South Korea are asking Iran to ship the oil because they are unable to secure insurance cover on tankers, but delivery has often been delayed as the Iranian fleet is stretched with many tankers being used as floating storage.
“It is still the same problem, but one that is getting worse,” said a Chinese buyer of Iranian oil. “The journey between Iran and China has in some cases been stretched to 60 days from the previous 40 days.”
India’s loading for December is estimated at 119,400 bpd compared with 275,000 bpd in November.
Japanese refiners are set to load about 186,000 bpd in December, up around 21 percent from 154,000 bpd, and all the cargoes are due to reach in January, industry sources said.
The rise in December loading reflects Japan’s increase in Iranian crude purchases during the winter due to higher demand for heating. Since it won its first waiver from US sanctions in March, Japan has cut imports each month by more than a quarter except for an increase of 6.8 percent in June.
South Korea’s loadings in November and December will be around 200,000 bpd, in line with its commitment to lift under annual contracts. It became the first major Asian consumer of Iranian crude to announce a halt in imports due to the EU ban. Seoul imported no crude oil from Iran in August and purchases resumed in September.
Taiwan’s Formosa is scheduled to lift about 61,000 bpd in December, after the island completely halted imports from April. Taiwan’s Iranian imports averaged 30,250 bpd in 2011.


‘Naked Diplomat’ author Tom Fletcher bares all on life as UK ambassador to Lebanon

Updated 26 May 2018
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‘Naked Diplomat’ author Tom Fletcher bares all on life as UK ambassador to Lebanon

Tom Fletcher might be best described as “the anti-diplomat.” Not in the sense that he sees no value in diplomacy, but in his steadfast refusal to live up to the stereotype expected of the ambassadorial profession.
While British ambassador in Beirut, he tweeted his way to acceptance by his hosts with an informal style and social accessibility that was in distinct contrast to the stuffy image of the traditional diplomatic circuit.
He told the BBC that there was not a single Ferrero Rocher in the embassy building — referring to the chocolates jokingly associated with the job after a 1990s TV commercial — and his “Dear Lebanon” farewell blog in 2015 after four years in the job boosted his broad international online appeal.
Now, Fletcher is running a portfolio of careers in the space where business, technology and public policy intersect. He is a visiting professor at New York University in Abu Dhabi, specializing in international relations, and is also involved with the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, the “ambassadors’ finishing school” in the UAE capital.
The former envoy is also chairman of the international board of the UK’s Creative Industries Federation and a member of the United Nations’ Global Tech Panel, as well as continuing a career as a successful author. His book “The Naked Diplomat” explored the interactions between governments, technology and big business, and became an international bestseller.
His experience and Internet renown make him a star attraction on the international forums circuit. He was on a panel in Dubai recently to discuss the findings of the 10th Arab Youth Survey, and afterwards went into some detail on the findings of the poll, which showed — alarmingly for some — that the US was waning in popularity in the region under President Trump and that Russia was increasingly regarded as a friend for young people in the Middle East.
Fletcher told Arab News that there was some reason to be worried about those findings, but also cause for optimism. “We have seen a striking fall in reputation among young people in the region since the US elections. But it was also worth noting the wider admiration for the American people as a whole, which looks quite resilient.
“The Russia results were interesting, because Russia has not always been a stabilizing force in the region. On Trump, they are further confirmation that the election of the leader of the free world created a vacuum. But the lights will eventually come back on in the shining city on a hill,” he said.
The survey seemed also to reveal a generational split in the Arab world, with many youngsters demonstrably not sharing their elders’ view of the US president. “I think that the region has access to the same information as the rest of us, and can take from it a pretty clear assessment of Donald Trump’s reliability. There are clearly some areas of alignment with some countries, such as the rejection of the Iran deal. But the survey shows that people across the region also hear the Trump administration’s wider messaging on the Middle East,” Fletcher said.
The Iranian situation was clearly on his mind, but he said there were alternatives to an escalating confrontation between the US and the Gulf states on the one hand, and the regime in Tehran on the other. “Wherever you stand on the Iran deal, its violation is a concern for regional security. The issue we have to ask ourselves is ‘what is the alternative for restraining Iran’s nuclear potential?’ Personally, I haven’t seen a better answer to that than the existing Iran agreement.
“Of course, the Iran deal in itself isn’t sufficient in reacting to Iran’s wider regional role, not least in Syria. But I worry that it is the hard-liners in Tel Aviv and Tehran who seem keenest to end the agreement,” he said.
A lot of his time in Beirut was spent dealing with the regional fallout from the Syrian crisis, which started just as he began the ambassador’s job. Surely, seven years on and with no solution in sight, that represents a failure of traditional diplomacy?
Fletcher’s response was, well, diplomatic. “Not all has failed. Huge effort has gone into keeping Lebanon relatively stable, despite the scale of the Syria crisis just across the border. Diplomacy has failed on Syria and on Palestine/Israel. But George Mitchell (the American politician credited with helping bring about an end to the Northern Ireland conflict in the 1990s) said that making peace was 700 days of failure and one of success. We have no choice but to keep trying, and to work harder than those who want to see diplomacy continue to stumble,” he said.
Fletcher’s work in the Gulf has enabled him to take a broad overview of developments in the region, and there is no more intriguing situation than in Saudi Arabia, which is going through a rapid transformation of the economy and society under the Vision 2030 strategy. “I think there has been a shift in international opinion on Vision 2030 over the last year. Initially many were curious, and conscious of the obstacles.
“But there is now a growing realization of how important a reform agenda is, especially if it succeeds in creating more opportunity for young people, including women. We all should hope it succeeds — I think it can, but will need maximum involvement of citizens themselves in shaping an open approach,” he said.
Fletcher also has a clear view of the kind of socioeconomic order that will emerge from the transformational policies of regional leaders.
“The Gulf has clearly realized that there is a need to move away from oil dependency well before the oil runs out. The answer has to lie in a knowledge economy. I’m heartened by the kinds of issues that my students at NYU AD want to work on and pioneer. And by the government focus on themes like wellbeing and education reform.
“Twenty-first century skills will need to be at the heart of the school curriculum, with learners encouraged to be curious, to seek out sources of knowledge and wonder, and to learn teamworking and innovation. This is happening increasingly in the larger cities, but there is still work to be done to mainstream knowledge, skills and character in education systems,” he said.
With the power of Big Data coming under scrutiny as never before in cases such as the controversy over Facebook’s role in the political process in the US and elsewhere, Fletcher’s work for the UN is more relevant than ever, and he believes there is a big role for the Gulf states to play in that debate.
“The Middle East needs to ensure it is better represented in the international architecture. It needs to be a key part of the debate about security and liberty online — the UAE Artificial Intelligence Minister (Omar Bin Sultan Al-Olama) is a great example of this. And it needs to help get everyone on to a free Internet,” he said.
Before entering the diplomatic service, Fletcher was an adviser on foreign policy to three British prime ministers, which gives him a unique perspective on the big current issue in the UK — the increasingly bitter process of leaving the EU, or Brexit.
The search for new trading partners has seen a succession of British ministers visiting the Gulf region in a bid to clinch new business. Fletcher does not share the view of some that the UK is destined for insularity and isolation in the post-Brexit world.
“The UK is going through a complex process, but it is always at its best when it has a worldview formed from having actually viewed the world. When it is open minded, outward looking. When it stands for more liberty — rights, trade, thought.
“The creative industries are already showing the way. And the royal wedding was a brilliant reminder of what the UK can be — diverse, modern, self-aware, creative. We all badly needed that reminder,” he said.
Fletcher was the youngest person ever to get a major ambassadorial post, and seems well set to pursue a handsomely paid career in virtually any sector, from international policy-making, to domestic UK politics or the private sector.
But he still regards himself as a diplomat with a creative twist. “I still write diplomat on the landing cards in planes.” And there is a second book in the works, he revealed: “I’ve just finished a murder novel, featuring an ambassador detective,” he said.
It is doubtful there will be a Ferrero Rocher mentioned in the book.