Tankers carrying some 22 million barrels of Iranian crude are on their way to the Chinese port of Dalian, Reuters reports, citing ship-tracking data, and noting this is a record-high amount of crude from Iran to be received by Chinese clients amid falling imports to other large clients, such as Japan and South Korea.
Both countries earlier this month said they had completely suspended their purchases of Iranian crude ahead of the U.S. sanctions, which will enter into effect on November 5.
Dalian is a major oil hub in China and, Reuters notes, Iran has used storage facilities at the port to keep crude during the previous international round of sanctions against Tehran. The usual rate of Iranian crude oil cargoes going into China has been between 1 million and 3 million barrels monthly.
Reuters’ data confirms earlier reports from TankerTrackers.com, which repeatedly warned that Iran’s oil exports have not fallen by as much as official shipping data suggests: NIOC tankers began switching off their transponders to conceal their routes earlier this year.
The Financial Times’ David Sheppard cited the satellite imaging data from the independent tracker service in a recent story: according to it, Iran’s oil exports have not fallen by half since April’s 2.5 million bpd as most media report. In fact, he says, the data suggests they’d fallen by a modest amount and as of mid-October totaled over 2.2 million bpd.
China has never made a secret of its plans to continue buying Iranian crude despite attempts by Washington officials to persuade Chinese refiners to at least reduce their intake. At one point earlier this year, Beijing was said to have agreed not to increase the amount of Iranian crude it buys, but since then the trade row between China and the United States has deepened, casting a shadow over the likelihood of China sticking to its word.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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