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Eight Iranian VLCCs 'on dedicated shuttle route'

NONE of the 28 very large crude carriers owned by Iranian national carrier NITC are available for spot market business — and they appear to be chartered to Iran’s national oil company, as it attempts to sell off its crude surplus.

Eight Iranian VLCCs 'on dedicated shuttle route'
21 September 2010 - 17:53

None of NITC’s VLCCs are available for spot market business.

NONE of the 28 very large crude carriers owned by Iranian national carrier NITC are available for spot market business — and they appear to be chartered to Iran’s national oil company, as it attempts to sell off its crude surplus.

Nine VLCCs controlled by recently rebranded NITC are moored in the Middle East Gulf in floating storage, holding an estimated 2.4m tonnes of Iranian crude.

This is considerably less than the peak seen at the end of May, when 25 NITC-owned VLCCs were storing 6.9m tonnes of crude for National Iranian Oil Co.

“NITC has told us that none of their ships will be available for the next two weeks. They are all on time charter to NIOC for its own programme of business,” one broker said.

Eight NITC-owned VLCCs have been used over the last month to ship Iranian crude to the Egyptian terminal of Ain Sukhna, with five anchored in the Gulf of Suez, waiting to discharge cargoes, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence.

Four of the VLCCs — the 2004-built, 299,500 dwt Darab, 2004-built, 296,894 dwt Dena, 2003-built, 301,000 dwt Harsin, and 2008-built, 317,130 dwt Hoda — are acting as dedicated shuttle tankers between Iran and Egypt, said an analyst with Gibson, a London broker.

Another four VLCCs — 2003-built, 296,977 dwt Daylam, 2002-built, 301,566 dwt Delva r , 2008-built, 317,130 dwt Homa and 1996-built, 298,732 dwt Noor — have also shuttled crude.

In July, Turkish trader Tupras fixed two NITC-owned VLCCs and Portugal’s Petrogal fixed another for spot voyages to ship Iranian crude to European destinations, according to Clarksons Research data.

Last month, India’s Bharat Petroleum and Italy’s ERG Petroleum also fixed one VLCC each from NITC for spot cargoes.

But since Iranian sanctions were tightened, the biggest trade for NITC’s tankers have involved shipments of Iranian crude for NIOC to Ain Sukhna. From there, crude is pumped to the Sidi Kerir terminal on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, where it is blended with other Middle East crudes. From Sidi Kerir, crude is sold to traders based in the Mediterranean, with the biggest volumes going to Italy, Spain and to Turkey.

China remains a key market for Iranian crude, with around 1.8m tonnes, or 14m barrels, shipped from Iran to China on seven VLCCs over the last two moonths.

“China is now the best market for Iranian crude. Everywhere else seems to be a ‘no-no’, as no-one wants to be associated with [the crude] for fear of any backlash from the US,” the Gibson analyst said.

Five NITC-owned VLCCs discharged crude in China in the last month and two in July, according to LLI. Two more NITC ships were en route to Chinese terminals to discharge in September.

It was thought the tankers were holding crude cargoes, but some of them could be storing fuel oil and gas condensates, according to Iranian media reports.

In a shift from the usual practice of shipping fuel oil on aframax tankers, NITC has placed fuel oil in VLCCs to provide prompt deliveries to Asia when required, said a London broker.

According to LLI data, two VLCCs have delivered fuel oil cargoes in Singapore in the last two months — the 2003-built, 301,000 dwt Hamoon delivered a cargo in July and 2008-built, 317,130 dwt Haraz in August.

The 1996-built, 298,823 dwt Nesa is en route to Singapore to deliver a fuel oil cargo on September 10.

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