February 23, 2012 / 11:32 AM / 6 years ago

Iranian oil tanker anchors off Indonesia in rare move

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An Iranian supertanker loaded with crude has made a rare journey to an anchorage point off the coast of an Indonesian island used for offshore sales and storage of oil.

The Delvar, part of the National Iranian Tanker Co.’s (NITC) fleet, arrived at Karimun Island in the Singapore Strait on Thursday, according to Reuters Freight Fundamentals Database. The vessel remains anchored with its draft indicating an almost full load, the data showed. A super tanker, or Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC), can carry up to two million barrels of oil.

Tehran has been struggling to sell its crude in the face of tightening U.S. sanctions and an EU embargo that kicks in on July 1. Major Asian buyers are planning to cut back imports in order to win a waiver from U.S. sanctions, sapping a key revenue lifeline for Iran.

Karimun is a key offshore storage point near Asia’s biggest oil trading hub Singapore and is often used for ship-to-ship transfers (STS), but NITC vessels have not been known to call there.

“It’s very interesting. I’ve never seen NITC vessels coming to Karimun,” said a Singapore-based shipbroker.

Karimun has been frequently used as a STS location for more than seven years, and some tankers, particularly VLCCs, have anchored there for stints of up to three months.

“If they have sold the oil, it’s most likely to a refiner. Traders won’t go near Iranian crude. They also could be storing it there,” said a Singapore-based crude oil trader.

Western financial sanctions have crimped Iran’s purchases of grain, cooking oil and tea. Tehran is turning to barter - offering gold bullion in overseas vaults or tankerloads of oil - as new financial sanctions have hurt its ability to import basic staples for its 74 million people.

Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said there was currently no agreement on barter trade with Iran.

“So far we haven’t got any proposal on barter trade from the Iranian government,” Wirjawan told Reuters on Thursday.

Separately, Indonesian state oil firm Pertamina said the Iranian tanker was not for them, according to the spokesman.

Refiners in the region who are known to buy Iranian crude include Malaysian state-owned Petronas and Royal Dutch Shell’s 500,000 barrels-per-day refinery in Singapore, traders said.

Additional reporting by Lee Yen Nee, Yayat Supriatna and Reza Thaher; Editing by Sugita Katyal, Manash Goswami

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