Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Iran's Oil Tanker Fleet Being Squeezed as Sanctions Bite

Iran warns Israel of 'firm response' if it acts against oil 'Israel to Face Tough Response If Threatens Iranian Tankers'
Kenny Thornton | 15 March, 2019, 19:30

As reported by Iran's state-controlled media, an Iranian oil tanker was attacked last Thursday by a swarm of 11 pirate speedboats, who were driven off by Iranian Navy commandos.

India is hopeful that the United States will extend the waiver from sanctions on its oil imports from Iran when the current six-month period expires in early May following Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale's talks with senior officials in Washington this week.

A State Department energy bureau spokesperson declined to comment on new volume targets for importers, but said USA officials were constantly assessing global oil markets to determine the way forward with Iran sanctions waivers.

He said the United States is monitoring global supplies for impact from sanctions. However, the age of the fleet and the dilapidated state of the tankers are making the challenge even more hard.

Greece and Italy were not buying any Iranian oil, Iran's oil minister, Bijan Zanganeh, was quoted as saying in February.

Replacing vessels is not going to be an easy task because of the US sanctions. Washington has also cracked down on more Iranian networks, making it riskier to get involved with Iran, according to bankers.

A senior Iranian official played down the threat to its oil exports because of pressure on its fleet.

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Iran, a member of the OPEC, exported nearly 3 million bpd of oil at its pre-sanctions peak. "As we have done in the past, there are several ways to overcome the shortage, including using tankers of other countries".

"Iran is trying to bypass the sanctions on it through the covert smuggling of petroleum via the sea", the prime minister said.

"Last November, we re-imposed all of the U.S. sanctions authorities previously lifted under the Iran nuclear agreement, and added over 700 individuals, entities, aircraft, and vessels onto our sanctions list on a single day". Most Europeans, as well as Japan and South Korea, have stopped.

Peyman offered to "continue to closely consult on the extension of sanctions exemption and Korean companies' technical issues regarding trade with Iran", Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement. It is now looking elsewhere including Vietnam.

Shipping records show that 16 of Iran's tankers are at least 19 years old - and three of those vessels have been in service since 1996.

Iran has more than 50 tankers, but needs them for both transporting oil and storing unsold stocks in its territorial waters - given its limited onshore storage capacity. US President Donald Trump has said the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, doesn't go far enough in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and does not restrict the Iranian missile development program.

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