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Thu 26 May 2011 09:30 AM

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UAE’s Royal Oyster denies imports fuel to Iran

Royal Oyster says deals with Iranian exports only, is facing US sanctions for trade with Iran

UAE’s Royal Oyster denies imports fuel to Iran
Dubai creek cargo

United Arab Emirates-based Royal Oyster Group, one of the
companies facing US sanctions for trade with Iran, denied it was involved in
importing fuel to the country.

"We think this is unfair," an executive at the
company said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We knew
there is no problem of exporting out of Iran, but there is a problem in
importing, and we were on the export side."

"We were taking some base oils and bringing them to
places like Oman, India and the UAE," he added.

The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions against
Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA and six other oil and shipping companies
for engaging in trade with Iran in violation of a US ban.

Among the six companies including Royal Oyster, the United
States named UAE-based company Speedy Ship, also known as Sepahan Oil Company,
which was not immediately available for comment.

The move added pressure on the Islamic Republic after the
European Union on Monday said it had extended sanctions.

The EU has added more than 100 new entities to a list of
companies and people affected by EU sanctions in an effort to force Tehran to
abandon its nuclear programme, which the West believes is aimed at developing
weapons.

Iran says its nuclear plan is for power-generation purposes,
to meet growing domestic electricity demand.

The country, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, is
still dependent on gasoline imports despite efforts to boost domestic
production through using petrochemical plants and to curb demand by raising
pump prices.

Founded in 2001 in Dubai, the Royal Oyster Group operates in
shipping and cargo, project management for engineering, procurement and
construction (EPC) projects in the oil and gas industry and general trading,
according to its web site.

"We do a lot of work with countries in this region;
with Oman, Saudi, Qatar. We bring different commodities, we don't see a problem
in free trade," the company executive said.

According to the company's web site, it owns 17 vessels,
including five tankers. "We are not in oil trading, we only do the
shipping. We give our vessel to the charter. Then whoever buys the cargo, we
don't know," the executive said.

Asked if he was worried about losing business because of the
sanctions, he said: "There's always business in other places. Our ships
are now trading in Africa, in Europe," he said.

He said the company did not see a problem in securing
insurance for its vessels.

Fearing they may fall foul of sanctions, international
insurance companies have been wary of providing cover to ship companies
involved in supplying refined products cargoes to Iran.

"We will secure insurance. There are a lot of companies
who are willing to do this business," the executive said, without naming
the companies or how exactly it would secure cover.

In February, Iran's biggest crude oil tanker operator NITC
said its ship insurers had declined to renew policy cover for the coming year
because of tightening sanctions.

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