Iran’s oil shipping operator NITC is expanding its oil tanker fleet with the first of 12 supertankers to be delivered from China in May, fortuitous timing for the Opec member as Western sanctions force Tehran to rely more on its ships to export oil.
The new tankers, each capable of carrying two million barrels of crude, add much-needed capacity to NITC’s fleet at a time when the number of maritime firms willing to transport Iranian crude has dwindled significantly amid European sanctions. The EU will prohibit European insurers and reinsurers from indemnifying tankers carrying Iranian crude oil anywhere in the world from July, threatening to curtail shipments and raise costs for major buyers like China, India, Japan and Korea.
Asian oil importers are lobbying European officials, who are expected to meet on the issue in mid-May, for exemptions to the sanctions. “These new tankers now carry more weight in this sanction environment,” said a Beijing-based oil executive with knowledge of these ships, adding that the first tanker with a capacity of 318,000 deadweight tonnes is named “Safe”. Another seven very large crude carriers are scheduled for delivery by the end of this year from two Chinese shipyards, and the remaining four are expected to be commissioned by the end of 2013 as part of a total contract worth $1.2 billion, industry executives told Reuters.
A second executive, with direct knowledge of the delivery programme, said the Western sanctions have not impacted the shipbuilding contract with Iran as payments from NITC so far have been received without much problem.