A tanker carrying Iranian fuel oil has reached its destination at a Chinese port and has unloaded its cargo in storage tanks, Reuters reports, citing shipping data. The shipment violates U.S. sanctions against Iran after Washington removed sanction waivers for eight importers of Iranian crude and oil products including China.
The unloading of the cargo—130,000 tons of fuel oil—was confirmed to Reuters by an official from the oil storage terminal in Zhoushan. Another official, however, denied the cargo came from Iran since the Zhoushan terminal had not received Iranian oil for four years.
Reuters notes, however, that Iranian exporters have been using things like ship-to-ship transfer of the cargo offshore and forged documents saying the cargoes were Iraqi oil to evade sanctions since November 2018. The tanker that docked at Zhoushan was one of those sailing with forged documents, Reuters said.
The news comes at a time when tension between the United States and China is flaring up again. President Trump was the one to fire the starting pistol for this round of the trade war when he said negotiations on the trade deal were going too slow and said Washington will be raising tariffs and introducing additional ones. China retaliated in-kind, including by raising the tariff on U.S. LNG imports but not on oil imports.
At the same time, the latest refinery throughput figures from Beijing’s statistics authorities show local refiners returned to record-high processing rates in April to 12.68 million bpd. This means demand for oil in China remains strong and growing despite a fuel surplus that has had refiners in neighboring countries worried.
China has openly said it would not comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran but state refiners have been careful: CNPC and Sinopec both suspended orders for Iranian crude, at least official ones, after the end of the sanction waivers.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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