Singapore-based Kuo Oil seeks ships for Iran now sanctions lifted

SINGAPORE (REUTERS) - Kuo Oil, a Singapore-based oil trading company, is seeking ships to load Iranian fuel oil, according to a shipping broker report, now that it is finally clear of US trade sanctions imposed in 2012 for trading with the country.

The United States lifted the sanctions on Saturday against Kuo, also known as Kuo International Bunkering, as part of its broader relaxation of sanctions against Iran for compliance with an agreement to curtail its controversial nuclear programme.

The sanctions were handed down on Kuo in January 2012 for providing over $25 million in refined petroleum products to Iran between late 2010 and early 2011.

Now that sanctions are lifted, a Jan 20 report from shipbroker Clarksons shows Kuo is seeking tankers to lift Iranian fuel oil from Bandar Abbas for loading between Jan 29 and 30 and another from Bandar Mahshahr for loading between Feb 6 and 8, totaling 120,000 tonnes.

However, shipbrokers still see obstacles in loading from Iranian ports because of problems with securing insurance for vessels.

"Even if Iran's sanctions have been lifted, P&I Club underwriters won't have the ability to load out of Iran until sometime later," said a Singapore-based tanker broker.

Apart from gaining insurance coverage, the broker saw no other issues that would prohibit companies from loading oil cargoes in Iran.

"Underwriters do still need to be mindful of the remaining restrictions, in particular a prohibition on the use of US dollars," said Neil Roberts, a senior executive at the Lloyd's Market Association, in response to e-mailed questions.

Kuo Oil was not immediately available to respond to requests for comment.

Sanctions on the company were lifted on the same day Iran emerged from years of economic isolation when the United Nations' nuclear watchdog ruled that the Islamic Republic had curbed its nuclear program under a deal with world powers.

Kuo Oil is a family-run trading firm with a significant presence in Singapore's oil sector.

Sanctions were also lifted from China's state-run Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp, which the US State Department said was then Iran's largest supplier of refined petroleum products, as well as the now defunct FAL Oil Company Ltd, formerly an independent energy trader based in the United Arab Emirates, according to a document from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

In 2015, the Zhuhai Zhenrong renewed its deal with National Iranian Oil Co to buy 240,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude.

Zhuhai Zhenrong was not available for comment.