China Resumes Reporting Oil Imports From Iran In July

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The latest Chinese Customs’ data show the country imported about 120,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran in July, worth a total of $134 million, after showing zero imports in June.

This figure corresponds with information provided to Radio Farda by Kpler, a data intelligence company providing transparency solutions in commodity markets.

Based on the same data, two oil tankers, Snow and Stream, with 1.6 million barrels and 2.1 million crude oil, arrived in China last July and delivered their cargo.

According to China’s General Administration of Customs’ (GAC) statistics published on its official website on Wednesday, August 26, the country imported a total of 2.2 million tons, or 77,000 barrels of oil per day, from Iran in the first seven months of the year. Before the reimposition of U.S. sanctions, China’s average daily crude oil from Iran was nine-fold that figure.

However, Kpler told Radio Farda for the first time in July that the Indian tanker Giessel had delivered Iranian oil to China on June 13 as disguised as “Indonesian oil”.

Later, the international tanker tracking company, TankerTrackers.com, confirmed the revelation, adding that 1.6 million barrels of Iranian oil had been smuggled to China by Giessel.

So far, sixteen oil tankers have secretly delivered Iranian crude to the markets, via clandestine ship-to-ship transfers in the middle of oceans, TankerTrackers reported.

Earlier, Kpler had told Radio Farda that Iran delivered 60,000 barrels of crude per day to Malaysia in the first five months of the year. Still, the Malaysian customs statistics show that it did not buy any oil from Iran. Therefore, since Malaysian oil exports to China doubled in the first half of this year compared with the period before the U.S. sanctions on Iran, and reached about 260,000 barrels per day, it is highly likely that the Iranian oil it received landed in China.

Whether these revelations prompted China to start officially reporting oil imports from Iran in July again, cannot be proven.

Reuters had also reported earlier that Venezuela was using the same ruse to sell its oil to China as “Malaysian crude” to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

Furthermore, NBC reported on Wednesday, August 26, “Four oil tankers have been stripped of their flags following an NBC News investigation into allegations they secretly transported Iranian oil in defiance of crippling U.S. sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.”

According to data from TankerTrackers the four ships all made covert visits to Iranian waters this year, where they collectively picked up millions of barrels of oil.

The trips were part of what TankerTrackers describes as an intricate “ballet” performed by Iranian and foreign vessels, in which ships manipulate their tracking data to hide their involvement in defying U.S. sanctions.

A July 31 report from NBC News featured fifteen ships, including four — the Giessel, the Ekaterina, the Lerax, and the Amfitriti — sailing under the flag of the Caribbean island state of St. Kitts & Nevis.

Five days after the report was broadcast, the St. Kitts & Nevis Ship Registry decided it would no longer allow the tankers to fly under its flag.

However, China’s customs data show that its oil imports from Iran in the first seven months of the year dropped by 82% compared with the same period last year. In the meantime, China’s oil imports from the U.S. almost doubled in July. The average daily U.S. oil shipments to China in the first seven months of the year also show a growth of 31%.

China’s oil imports from Russia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia substantially increased in the first seven months of this year.

Beijing’s oil purchases from Malaysia and Oman also grew by 45 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Dalga Khatinoglu
Is an energy analyst from Azerbaijan who contributes to Radio Farda.