South Korea imports no Iran oil in November despite sanctions waiver

South Korean buyers are believed to be holding talks with Iran on a resumption of oil imports early in the new year. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 December 2018
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South Korea imports no Iran oil in November despite sanctions waiver

SEOUL: South Korea did not import any Iranian oil for the third straight month in November, customs data showed on Saturday, even though it has a waiver from sanctions targeting crude supplies from the Middle Eastern country.
South Korea and seven other countries were in early November granted temporary waivers from US sanctions that kicked in that month over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
But it kept imports at zero as buyers have been in talks with Iran over new contracts, with industry sources previously saying they expected arrivals to resume in late January or February.
With no Iranian cargoes arriving for three months, South Korea’s imports of oil from the nation were down 57.9 percent at 7.15 million tons in January-November, or 157,009 barrels per day (bpd), the customs data showed. That compares to nearly 17 million tons in the same period in 2017.
South Korea is usually one of Iran’s major Asian customers. Although the exact volumes it has been allowed to import under the waiver have not been disclosed, sources with knowledge of the matter say it can buy up to 200,000 bpd, mostly condensate.
Condensate is an ultra light oil used to make fuels such as naphtha and gasoline.
But as Iranian condensate supply has been limited due to the sanctions and rising domestic demand in Iran, South Korean buyers have been looking for alternatives from places such as Qatar.
In total, South Korea imported 12.71 million tons of crude oil in November, up 1.2 percent from 12.59 million tons a year earlier, according to the data.
South Korea’s crude oil imports from January to November inched up 0.6 percent from the year before to 131.23 million tons.
Final data on November crude oil imports is due later this month from state-run Korea National Oil Corp. (KNOC).


Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

Updated 25 June 2019
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Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

  • Libya has only a tiny private sector and the economy is dominated by the state
  • Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power

TRIPOLI: When inflation began eating into her state-paid salary Libyan architect and assistant professor Seham Saleh started selling drawings over the Internet to help pay the bills.
She joins a growing number of Libyan women launching start-ups in the conservative Arab country, where many still think a woman’s place is in the home but where the strains on personal and family income following years’ of political chaos have forced women to look for more work.
Libya has only a tiny private sector, which means there is a market for locally-produced goods. The economy is dominated by the state, which employs most adults under a structure set up by Muammar Qaddafi, who was toppled in 2011.
Men are the traditional breadwinners, although around 30 percent of women were in the labor force as of 2015, according to a UN report.
“I cannot live on my assistant professor salary of 1,000 dinars ($256) even if it is paid out,” said Saleh. She has been selling drawings of people in Libyan dress or book marks she created on a computer.
“Thank God... people wanted to buy the products,” she said. She also does freelance work as an architect.
Once one of the richest countries in the region, the chaos and civil war that ensued after the fall of Qaddafi has seen Libya’s living standards erode. Little is now produced in Libya other than oil, even milk is imported from Europe.
Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power, and the government effectively devalued the dinar last September.
A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. Lenders have no cash deposits as the rich prefer to hold their cash themselves, rather than deposit it in a bank.
Women rarely had jobs outside of sectors such as teaching, although the need for more family income has changed the situation, said Jasmin Khoja, head of a women’s business support venture.
Her organization, the Jusoor center for studies and development, has trained some 33 would-be female entrepreneurs, offers legal advice and office space as women often can’t afford their own.
While Seham’s “Naksha” art business is in its early stages, others such as Najwa Shoukri’s start-up are growing fast. She started designing clothes from home in 2016, and selling them online.
Now, together with five other women, she has a workshop selling 50 pieces a month and plans to open a shop next year on Jaraba Street, the main fashion shopping avenue in Tripoli.
To make the shop a success her output would have to rise to 150 pieces a month. Her brother and family have contributed to investments worth 10,000 dinars.
The biggest challenges for start-ups are legal hurdles and the lack of electronic payment systems.
Some Libyan commercial laws go back to the 1960s and are aimed at big corporations such as oil firms, not start-ups. Under these regulations firms need to deposit thousands of dinars.
“Banks do not give loans, which stops projects and makes them unable to grow or employ other women and young people,” Khoja said.
Undeterred, Mayaz Elahshmi started a business last week training women to fix computers and smartphones.
“There is big demand as many women are reluctant to go to a phone shop where men work, as they have personal files on their phones.”
Six people came to her first training session, each paying 30 dinars.