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Oil imports from Iran stop as SBI refuses payment

Last updated on: January 7, 2011 15:06 IST

Oil imports from Iran stop as SBI refuses payment

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Afraid of US sanctions, State Bank declines payment facilitation for oil imports from Iran.


India's crude oil imports from Iran are stuck after the State Bank of India refused to facilitate payments for the imports due to the Reserve Bank's move to abolish a regional payment mechanism.

Sources said SBI is wary that it might be hit by the United States' sanctions for facilitating payments for Iranian imports.

"One cargo of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd and one cargo of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd are stuck in the absence of a letter of credit from SBI," a source close to the development said.

After a meeting in the Union finance ministry in this regard, an SBI official said the country's largest lender is not opening Letters of Credit for Iran crude oil payment due to uncertainty over payment mechanism.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Oil imports from Iran stop as SBI refuses payment

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After Reserve Bank of India abolished a regional payment mechanism for Iranian crude imports, SBI too has refused to issue fresh letter of credits, which is a guarantee to supplier for the payment upon delivery.

The SBI official said the meeting could not produce any resolution to Iran crude oil payment row and more meetings are required to settle the impasse in the future.

MRPL got its last cargo from Iran on January 2 for which the letter of credit was requisitioned before the RBI move of December 23.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Oil imports from Iran stop as SBI refuses payment

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A cargo for MRPL is to be loaded in Iran on Friday but the delivery is uncertain as the company has not been able to provide letter of credit to the National Iranian Oil Company.

The RBI last month stated that trade transactions with Iran must be settled outside the Asian Clearing Union, a regional payment mechanism that allowed companies to skirt US and European restrictions on doing business with the Middle East country.

Refiners in India used the ACU, which settles payments in dollars and euros, to pay for oil purchases from Iran.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Under the ACU mechanism, payments for all trade deals between member countries are settled every two months, with individual transactions not accounted for separately.

ACU, based in the Iranian capital of Tehran, settles trade transactions between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Maldives, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

MRPL is the biggest importer of Iranian crude oil in the country, sourcing about 4 million barrels every month, which amounts to 7.1 million tonnes every year and Hindustan Petroleum Corp about 3 million tonnes.


Photographs: Reuters
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