Iran has completed construction of the first of four oil tankers to be sold to Venezuela for a total 230 million euros, the official news agency IRNA reported on Tuesday.
The Aframax-category tanker -- capable of carrying 113,000 tonnes of oil, the equivalent of 750,000 barrels -- was built over the past two years by the Iranian shipbuilding company SADRA, which was put under US sanctions in March because it is owned by Iran s powerful Revolutionary Guards.
IRNA said it was put into the water in the southern city of Bushehr. The other three will be built in coming months as part of the 2007 euro-denominated contract signed with Venezuela.
At today s exchange rate, the total contract is worth the equivalent of $278 million. Iran is suffering US and EU sanctions hampering the export of its oil, its top source of revenue, as part of Western pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.
Its own fleet of around 40 oil tankers, the biggest in the Middle East, is mostly made up of far bigger supertankers bought from foreign shipbuilders and capable of carrying up to two million barrels of oil each. China is to supply two more to the fleet next year.
Iran s tankers, many of which are anchored offshore as floating depots of unsold oil according to the International Energy Agency, are prevented from making their way to Europe because of an EU ban that came into force this month. Venezuela, whose government shares Tehran s anti-US stance, is one of Iran s most important allies in the world. Both countries are members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and have deepened economic ties in recent years.