Massive slump in Iranian oil exports, despite 'disappearing tanker' phenomenon

US sanctions on Iran has seen exports slump by nearly 90%
Massive slump in Iranian oil exports, despite 'disappearing tanker' phenomenon
The oil tanker SARPEN arrives at Southampton Container Port, Southampton Docks in Southampton, southern England, on March 21, 2017. Image for illustrative purposes only. (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
By Shane McGinley
Sun 07 Jul 2019 02:18 PM

Oil exports from Iran have slumped nearly 90 percent in the last year, as the impact of US sanctions begins to take hold, according to figures released last week.

According to data from Refintiv Eikon, 107 tankers shipped Iran oil to global market in June 2018, but this slumped to just seven last month.

Similarly, the number of barrels shipped per day has fallen from a high of 2.56 million in April 2018 to just 0.29 million in June 2019.

“It has fallen drastically in the last six months, because the volume of Iranian exports has declined, as obviously there is not that many buyers anymore,” Dubai-based Giorgos Beleris, oil research manager for the Middle East and North Africa at Refinitiv, told Arabian Business.

Stockholm-based Samir Madani, co-founder of TankerTrackers.com, a company which used satellite imagery to track tankers around the globe, said the Iranian oil that was being exported was mainly heading to China and Syria.

“Most of it is for China and Syria, Syria takes a small amount,” Madani said.

Sanctions take hold

US President Donal Trump reintroduced sanctions on Iranian oil in November 2018. In May, Reuters reported that a tanker carrying Iranian fuel oil had unloaded its cargo at a Chinese port, violating U.S. sanctions.

In late June, Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, told reporters in London that Washington would sanction any country that imports Iranian oil.

However, speaking in Vienna last week, a Chinese official was described as ‘guarded’ when asked by Reuters if the country was buying Iranian oil.

“We reject the unilateral imposition of sanctions and for us energy security is important,” Fu Cong, director general of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry told reporters.

“We do not accept this zero policy of the United States,” he said when asked if China would buy Iranian oil.

The news comes as experts have identified a trend for empty tankers to enter the Strait of Hormuz, switch off their tracking and then reappear days later full, in a bid to try and pick up Iranian oil without being detected.

“It is a large scale phenomenon for Iranian exports… Most of the exports are done on the dark side,” Beleris said.

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