Japanese oil distributors plan to suspend Iranian crude imports in October before US sanctions become effective on November 4, industry sources told The Japan Times.

Japan had previously requested a sanctions waiver from the US on the basis that it has already made efforts to cut its imports of Iranian crude. Government data shows that Japanese imports of Iranian crude fell 28% to 165,481 barrels per day (b/d) in FY 2017/18, S&P Global reported.

Ryo Minami, director-general of oil, gas and mineral resources at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, told S&P Global on August 30 that the country would continue to request an exemption from Washington.

“Japan’s position remains firm even after the second round of talks [with Washingon]… Our basic position is to seek exemption,” Minami said.

However, the latest reports cast doubt on how much longer Tokyo is prepared to hold out for an exemption.

Sources told The Japan Times that oil firms are making preparations for alternative transportation and payment arrangements ahead of a possible reduction of Iranian oil imports.

Meanwhile the Nikkei Asian Review reported that Japanese oil firms JXTG Nippon, Showa Shell Sekiyu and Fuju Oil would increase their purchases from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in October.

In recent years, 80% of Japan’s petroleum imports have come from the Middle East, in 2017 39% of which came from Saudi Arabia, and roughly 5% from Iran.