Trading sources told Reuters major trading houses Gunvor and Vitol
have each delivered several cargoes of gasoline into Iran in the
past few weeks. Gunvor and Vitol declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Swiss trading house Litasco of Russian oil major Lukoil
had to cancel a booking of a tanker to transport oil from Iran to
Italy in early February due to what trading sources described as
ship insurance difficulties.
Trading sources on Wednesday cited preliminary fixtures being made
by Glencore and Total for tankers to lift Iranian crude in February
although it was still unclear if the deals had been concluded partly
due to insurance issues.
"It is still very difficult despite the sanctions removal. Dollar
clearing is an issue, banks' letters of credit is an issue, ship
insurance is an issue. Loads of people are still very cautious,"
said a senior trading executive.
Leading shipping players say efforts by Iran to start exporting oil
to Europe are being held up as tanker owners are still struggling to
secure insurance for cargoes.
A nuclear deal between world powers and Iran earlier this month led
to the removal of European sanctions on the country.
But many foreign firms remain wary of violating other sanctions that
were imposed by the United States and have not been lifted. Measures
still in place from Washington prohibit most business between U.S.
persons, U.S. companies and Iran as well as no dollar trades.
Third-party liability insurance and pollution cover for vessels is
provided by P&I clubs - marine insurers owned by shipping clients
and reinsured internationally. The umbrella International Group of
P&I clubs is still unable to confirm payments under re-insurance
"Gasoline exports to Iran are a bit easier as tankers are much
smaller, insurance is easier and there are banks which are willing
to do this as non-dollar transactions," one senior trading source
familiar with the matter said.
Iran is a gasoline importer despite being the third largest producer
within the OPEC group as its outdated refining industry cannot meet
rising petrol needs in the country.
The country has continued to import gasoline regardless of sanctions
but the biggest names stayed out of the game for the past few years.
[to top of second column]
Iran's oil exports have fallen to just over 1 million bpd, from a
peak of more than 2.5 million bpd before the imposition of tougher
European sanctions in 2012.
Since the sanctions' removal this month, Iran has ordered a 500,000
barrel per day (bpd) increase in oil output, of which it said some
200,000 bpd will initially go to Europe. Prior to sanctions, Europe
was importing as much as 800,000 bpd.
Greece's Hellenic Petroleum on Friday became the first European
refiner to agree to restart crude imports from Tehran and
pre-sanctions buyers Italy, France and Spain are expected to follow.
Oil and gas condensate held by Iran on its domestic tankers in
floating storage is estimated by shipping sources to be at least 40
million barrels and the country has said it is keen to offload
volumes into the market to boost revenues.
"It will take weeks if not months to return to full-scale crude
exports to Europe. Tonnes of papers will need to change hands
between inhouse risk officers, lawyers and banks before the picture
is fully clear," said a trading executive involved in the
But ultimately oil should flow at full steam.
"It's just a matter of price. If the price is good, we'll buy it,"
Marco Schiavetti, director of supply and trading with Italy's Saras
said of Iranian oil. "Obviously we will talk to them soon, and we
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso, Jonathan Saul and Libby George,
editing by David Evans)
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