According to AIS-based movements data, nine National Iranian Tanker Company's (NITC) VLCCs are no longer broadcasting an AIS signal.
The last reported positions of seven of the VLCCs are listed as Fujairah and Kharg Island, respectively. Two NITC VLCCs appear to be in repair yards in China, which may explain why their AIS broadcast is switched off.
Another four NITC VLCCs have intermittent AIS broadcasts but are showing ETAs and destinations.
The lack of transparency on the movements of all 38 VLCCs in the NITC fleet is seen as a prelude to the company’s operations post the re-imposition of US sanctions. The return of the NITC VLCC fleet to global trade in 2016 had a significant impact on the market.
The sanctions are designed to limit Iran’s income from oil sales. US State Department’s director of policy planning Brian Hook said in July 2018 that the “goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales.”
Under the previous US sanctions, China and other countries which had not signed up to the sanctions continued to trade with Iran, and at any one time about a third of the NITC VLCC fleet was being used for storage.
It was also alleged that third parties were circumnavigating the US sanctions by loading Iranian crude oil via ship-to-ship cargo transfer in international waters off the coast of Fujairah, hence the interest in which NITC VLCCs are currently on station near Fujairah.
Once the Iranian crude oil is mixed with other cargoes, it becomes difficult to trace the provenance, and during the last round of sanctions there was a regular cat and mouse game in tracing sanction-busting cargoes.
Business, operational and technical issues impacting the crude, product and chemical tanker trades will be discussed in London at the Tanker Shipping & Trade Conference, Awards & Exhibition, 20-21 November 2018.