Iranian Tankers Seek to Reenter European Ports

Iranian Tankers Seek to Reenter European PortsIranian Tankers Seek to Reenter European Ports

The state-run National Iranian Tanker Company, which has the largest fleet of oil tankers in the world, is pushing for reentry in European ports after being locked out of western markets for years.

Ramin Rajaei, the head of NITC operations in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, told a news conference that an NITC vessel will make its first shipment to Europe "within weeks", Shana reported.

The remark comes on the back of a statement by another NITC official this month that said NITC's first crude oil shipment will arrive at an unspecified terminal in Europe in June.

Iran used to sell as much as 700,000 barrels a day to Europe before sanctions.

According to reports, Iran has reached an agreement that will allow its oil tankers to offload their cargo in a port in the Red Sea and carry it through the 320-kilometer SUMED pipeline in Egypt to reload it in the Mediterranean Sea to gain access to Europe more quickly.

Saudi Arabia, which owns a minority stake in pipeline, was a potential stumbling block against carrying Iran, but Iranian officials say the issue has been resolved.

SUMED, which consist of two 42-inch pipelines, provide an alternative transit route for oil cargos from the Persian Gulf region to the Mediterranean that are too large to be shipped through the Suez Canal.

The closure of either route would force tankers to go around the southern tip of Africa and increase transit time and cost.

Iran so far has made all of its Europe-bound oil shipments via international vessels. In February, three foreign tankers loaded 4 million barrels of crude from the Kharg Oil Terminal in the Persian Gulf for destinations in Europe following orders by Total S.A., Lukoil and Cepsa.

  Tanker Fleet

Iran has the world's largest fleet of very large crude tankers, operating 42 VLCCs, nine Suezmaxes, five Aframaxes and several other ships, with the fleet’s average age at around 8.5 years. According to Rajaei, around 35 tankers navigate Iran's territorial waters in Hormozgan Province, with the region's harbors able to accommodate tankers with a maximum draft of 13.5 meters. Draft is the length between the waterline and the depth of the tanker underwater. Iran's principal ports in Asalouyeh and Kharg Island can take in larger carriers with a draft of up to 22.5 meters.

"One of the reasons that the West could not pressurize Iran with more sanctions was Iran's large tanker fleet," said the official.