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Charles Kennedy

Charles Kennedy

Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com

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Iranian Oil Exports Much Higher Than Official Data Suggests

Iran is exporting a lot more crude oil than U.S. figures suggest, data from TankerTrackers.com has revealed, as reported by NBC News.

According to the data, Iran is exporting as much as 600,000 barrels daily, using ship-to-ship transfers with transponders turned off to avoid detection, skirting U.S. sanctions. The daily average number compares with an estimate of 227,000 bpd made in a U.S. Congressional report, NBC’s Raf Sanchez wrote on Twitter.

TankerTrackers.com first reported in 2018, after President Trump reintroduced sanctions on Iranian exports, that Iranian tankers were turning off their transponders to hide the destination of their journeys. At the time, most tanker tracking data came precisely from transponders and port authorities, which made most Iranian tanker movement reports unreliable.

Last year, a U.S. State Department official told media that the department was tracking ship-to-ship transfers and was working with other governments to ensure they, too, were keeping track of such moves that became one of few ways for Iran to still get its crude to foreign markets.

Most of Iran’s oil is going to China one way or another. In fact, as Simon Watkins reported earlier this month for Oilprice.com, China has been stocking up on cheap Iranian crude. Citing an unnamed oil industry source close to Tehran’s oil ministry, Watkins said China took in some 8.1 million barrels of Iranian oil between June 1 and July 21. Official reports from China said the country had not imported any Iranian crude in June.

But not all Iranian oil reaches China directly from Iran, as TankerTrackers.com’s co-founder Samir Madani told Oilprice.com earlier this year. As Oilprice’s Watkins notes in his recent report, citing Iranian sources in the know, much of it comes into China via Malaysia and, some of it, via Indonesia. The sanction-skirting move involves hanging a tanker’s registration documents that point to its origin and ownership to make it look like the oil comes from Malaysia or Indonesia.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on August 11 2020 said:
    Despite US sanctions, Iran has been exporting an estimated 1.0 million barrels a day (mbd) of which some 338,000 barrels a day (b/d) or 31% have been going to China with the rest going to India, Turkey and others.

    The Iranians are using different routes and means to export their oil including direct shipments to China, ship-to-ship transfers, barter trade, via Russia from the Caspian through the ESPO (Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean) and also via Iraq as re-labelled Iraqi crude.

    Iran’s foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif recently taunted the United States saying that Iran with its long experience of dealing with US sanctions has perfected the art of evading them.

    American sources claim that Iranian crude exports amount to only 227,000 b/d and that sanctions are working but they are deluding themselves. Whilst hurting the Iranian economy, sanctions have failed to cripple Iranian oil exports.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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