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Petrobras To Refuel Stranded Iranian Ships Per Court Order

The top court in Brazil overturned a lower-court injunction and ordered Brazil’s state energy firm Petrobras to provide fuel to two Iran-flagged vessels containing grain that have been stuck at Brazilian ports because they don’t have enough fuel to return to Iran.

The two Iran-flagged vessels have been sitting idle at Brazilian ports for weeks because they need fuel to return to Iran, but Petrobras has been refusing to sell them fuel because of the U.S. sanctions on Iran that could also affect the Brazilian state-held energy company listed in New York.

Iranian ships Bavand and Termeh traveled to Brazil earlier this year loaded with urea, a petrochemical product which is used as a fertilizer. After offloading the urea, the ships were planned to load corn from Brazil and return to Iran.

But the vessels don’t have enough fuel for the voyage home. The owner of the two ships, Iran’s state company, Sapid Shipping Co, has been trying, unsuccessfully, in local Brazilian courts to force bunker fuel supplier, Transpetro—a unit of Petrobras—to sell it fuel for the return trip, a source familiar with the issue told Reuters last week on condition of anonymity.

Petrobras, for its part, fears that it could become a target of secondary U.S. sanctions if it or any of its subsidiaries were to deal with Iran-flagged ships. Petrobras is exposed to the U.S. financial system and markets because its shares are listed not only in Brazil, but also on the New York Stock Exchange.

Petrobras had previously won a court injunction allowing it to refuse to sell fuel to the Iranian ships. But on Thursday, Dias Toffoli, the Chief Justice of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, overturned the injunction and ordered Petrobras to provide the fuel.

Earlier this week, Iran warned Brazil of the consequences should Brazil continue to withhold fuel for the two Iranian ships. Iran’s Ambassador to Brazil, Seyed Ali Saghaeyan, told Brazilian officials on Tuesday that “Tehran could easily find new suppliers of corn, soybeans and meat if the South American country refused to permit the refueling of the vessels,” Iranian outlet Press-TV reports.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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