The development was announced by Secretary of State John Kerry at a press conference in Washington, DC.

Kerry told reporters that the exemption was issued because of significant reductions in crude oil transactions but said vowed that the US and its allies will “continue to maintain pressure on the Iranian regime until it fully addresses concerns about its nuclear programme”.

“A total of 20 countries and economies have continued to significantly reduce the volume of their crude oil purchases from Iran,” he added.

“The message to the Iranian regime from the international community is clear: take concrete actions to satisfy the concerns of the international community, or face increasing isolation and pressure.”

Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the UK also qualified for the renewal of exemptions from what is known as the Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Kerry said the nations secured exemptions because they have not purchased Iranian oil since 1 July 2012, pursuant to a decision made by the whole of the European Union in January 2012 that set the stage for heightened sanctions.

“As a result, I will report to the Congress that exceptions to sanctions pursuant to Section 1245 of the NDAA for certain transactions will apply to the financial institutions based in these countries for a potentially renewable period of 180 days,” he said.

When asked about the impact of the development on shipping a leading US tanker broker told TradeWinds thatthe Chinese continue to absorb much of what they describedas “incremental Iranian crude supplies left in the market by the impact ofsanctions”.

"Exemptions havebeen granted on the basis that Iranian exports to Europe and Japan continue tofall off,”  they added. “As replacement barrels to Europe and Japan are sourcedfrom other mid east OPEC countries with comparable crude grades there is anegligible ton mile impact to tankers here.”