In the face of severe sanctions on Iran’s oil exports that have hurt its economy severely, Tehran is using numerous tactics which help its tankers deliver oil to its trading partners such as Syria, Turkey and China, its biggest customer.
While this was partly acknowledged by Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iranian Minister of Oil, different reconnaissance reports corroborate this development.
Namdar Zanganeh underscored that Tehran is working “day and night” to find ways to export its crude amid US efforts to bring the Islamic Republic’s oil exports to zero. He claimed that many such vessels have “gone dark”, switching off transponders to avoid detection.
These remarks come after Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri expressed hope that its leading economic partner China and other Iranian allies will “be more active in buying Iranian oil”.
Multiple firms tracking tanker movement cited China continued imports of Iranian crude oil in July, two months after the expiry of US sanctions waivers. According to the data, Iranian tankers unloaded between 4.4 million and 11 million barrels of crude oil in China in July, with some of the oil believed to have gone to China’s strategic oil reserves.
Devin Geoghegan, global director of petroleum intelligence at Genscape Inc. in Denver, Colorado, argued that “Iran is a black box, but it’s also not a black box” because there are some ways to detect Tehran’s secretive activity. He claimed, “Iran is simply doing a better job of putting their oil into other people’s hands than anybody has expected.”
Daniel Gerber, CEO Geneva-based tanker-tracking firm Petro-Logistics SA, insisted that “Iran is as secretive now as any time over the past 40 years”.
Samah Ahmed of the Paris-based think tank Kpler, revealed that Iran is resorting to a range of techniques, including “several ship-to-ship transfers off-radar,” in order to transport oil in the face of the US sanctions.
In this context, Homayoun Falakshahi, Kpler expert, while acknowledging that “the Trump administration has been obviously very successful in bringing maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic, insisted that “the US goal of bringing Iran’s exports down to zero was never attained”.