According to MANA,IRAN continued to push up its oil export volumes in March despite insurance and banking constraints, with India doubling its share from a month earlier to nearly match China’s volumes.
Higher imports to Asia helped offset the limited quantity of Iranian crude making its way to European markets that are still struggling to work their way around existing US sanctions and the slow return of vessels for Iranian trade.
Indian oil refiners indicated earlier this year that they intend to increase their uptake of Iranian crude, after the lifting of a range of European Union and United Nations sanctions in mid-January, and are likely to continue buying given that they are geographically the nearest market to Iran.
Iran shipped out 1.67m barrels of crude oil per day in March, up from around 1.26m barrels per day in January when the sanctions were lifted, according to data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence. In 2015, Iran’s oil exports amounted to around 1.26m bpd.
Typically, China has been the largest buyer of Iranian crude, accounting for around 45% of its total exports in 2015. In the last couple of months however, China has accounted for slightly less than a third of Iranian oil exports.
Comparatively, India bought more than 30% of Iranian oil exports in March, making it the second-largest buyer after China. It has typically accounted for less than 15% of Iranian crude sales in the past year.
In absolute volumes, India more than tripled its imports of Iranian crude to 15.7m barrels in March from 4.8m barrels in February, LLI data showed.
In addition to the privately held Indian oil refiners Essar Oil and Reliance Industries, state-run oil refiners like Indian Oil Corp and Bharat Petroleum have also started buying Iranian crude, Singapore-based traders said.
More non-Iranian vessels are now calling at Iranian ports, and a total of 14 very large crude carriers are currently at sea transporting Iranian crude.
The 299,999 dwt Greek Warrior, which loaded at Asaluyeh Terminal and Kharg Island, sailed from the latter port on March 25 for Jamnagar in western India, and arrived on March 29, a journey of just five days, LLI’s vessel tracking showed.
Non-Iranian operated tankers that recently carried Iranian crude include the VLCC Atlantas, which loaded at Kharg Island on February 15 and discharged at Le Havre on April 2. The 299,930 dwt Universal Brave, which loaded at Asaluyeh Terminal between March 3 and 7 is still sitting at Dubai Anchorage.
The Liberia-flagged VLCC Achilleas loaded both Iranian crude at Kharg Island and Kuwaiti crude at Mina al-Ahmadi at the end of March and is likely headed to China for mid-April delivery. Two other VLCCs, Athina andApollonas, are also expected to load Iranian crude in April.