Iran oil export worsens as sanctions hinder trade

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By Godwin Oritse with agency reports

FOLLOWING sanctions imposed on Iran by European Community,  (EU) Iranian oil tankers are contending with longer delays in shipments and some are idled amid increasing pressure on buyers to curb purchases from what was once OPEC’s second-biggest producer.

NITC, the Tehran-based tanker owner, has 42 crude oil carriers and 13 were delayed in transit since Oct. 21, according to data compiled by Richard Hurley, a senior maritime consultant at IHS Fairplay in London who has tracked vessel movements for two decades.

Four NITC ships with cargoes are idling while they await orders and four others have switched off their signals and are presumed to be anchored, the data show.

Iran is reliant on NITC ships because EU sanctions imposed in July barred about 95 percent of the global tanker fleet from carrying the nation’s crude. NITC has renamed vessels, switched their flag states and signaled inaccurate information about where they are registered, according to the data from IHS, which maintains the United Nations’ shipping database.

“Iran is finding it harder to place cargoes,” Hurley wrote in an e-mail. “China, while still a major purchaser, seems unwilling to take all the cargoes which are being sent to her and has been letting some ships wait at anchor for several weeks. India, while still a purchaser, is not taking much.”

Two phone calls and e-mails over two days to Habib-ullah Seyedan, NITC’s commercial director, weren’t answered.

Oil exports from Iran slumped 46 percent this year compared with 2011, according to data from Clarkson Plc (CKN), the world’s largest shipbroker. No NITC vessels delivered cargoes to Turkey since Nov. 22 or to India since Nov. 12, according to data from IHS Fairplay, a unit of Englewood, Colorado-based IHS Inc. (IHS) Banks in countries that fail to cut imports risk losing access to dollars under a U.S. law that took effect June 28. China and India have waivers that expire this month.

The U.S. and 27-nation EU want to curb Iran’s nuclear activities, which they say are aimed at producing weapons, a charge the government in Tehran has denied.

The sanctions are costing Iran about $98.9 million a day in lost oil sales, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The exports once provided about half of government revenue.

Signals from 31 NITC tankers show they are registered in Tanzania-Zanzibar, according to IHS data. A Zanzibar government official said in October that no Iranian ships were registered in the east African territory and the country’s ship registry confirmed the vessels aren’t entitled to fly the flag.

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