Turkmen origin crude oil discharged in Iran bypassing American sanctions

On August 3rd vessel VF Tanker-20 under the Russian flag arrived to the Iranian Caspian port of Neka and discharged about 6’000 tonnes of Turkmen origin crude oil produced by the company "Dragon Oil".

The discharge of that cargo took place on 3-4 of August into the terminal, which is owned and and operated by NIOC (National Iranian Oil Company).

This is the first time in a long time that “Dragon Oil”, 100% owned by the “Emirate National Oil Company (ENOC)”- decided to deliver crude oil cargo to Iran independently, via its trading sister company “ENOC Singapore”.

Till today, Dragon Oil sold all its crude oil export volumes on tenders on FOB Aladja, Turkmenistan basis. Due to the sanctions against Iran, export volumes were transported since 2011 solely towards Europe through territories of Azerbaijan (either via pipeline Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan or via railways Baku-Batumi) and Russia (via pipeline Makhachkala-Novorossiysk).

The decision of Dragon Oil and ENOC to resume oil supplies to Iran caused surprise among market participants. Despite the fact, that some of the sanctions against Iran were lifted in 2016 after “Iranian Nuclear Deal” in November 2015, many restrictions are still in place to date. Most of the companies prefer to wait for detailed recommendations from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury (OFAC) before starting any business related to Iran.

In this particular case, the decision of Dragon Oil to start deliveries of crude oil to Iran looks both hasty and risky: this oil producer performs all financial transactions in US dollars, works on a long-term basis with US contractors (for instance: the largest American oilfield service company “Schlumberger”) and has US citizens occupying top-management positions.

It also looks surprising, that ENOC, the National oil company of the United Arab Emirates, is actively developing new business with Iran, bypassing US sanctions, despite the fact, that the UAE is the USA's main ally in the region.

It is not excluded that this delivery to Iran was not initially planned. Indeed, the vessel VF Tanker-20 arrived first in port of Baku, Azerbaijan and queued on roads from July 25th to August 1st. However, the vessel was rejected for discharge due to the not documented (possibly smuggled) cargo aboard the ship being found. Thereafter, ENOC redirected the tanker to the Iranian port of Neka, where it is possible to discharge cargo without actual presentation of documents for the goods.

By now, the market participants are waiting for further developments of the situation: was this oil shipment a random cargo discharged in Neka because of documents issues, or is it a start of a planned program for the supply of Turkmen crude oil to Iran?

Several signs speak in favour of the second scenario: ENOC is currently very active on the freight market and several ships belong to the Russian shipping company "VF Tanker" were redirected to the Caspian Sea towards the port of Aladja.




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