Iranian tankers stranded by threat of US sanctions

A tanker prepares to dock at the Iranian oil facility on Kharg Island, in the Gulf. (AFP)
Updated 13 September 2018
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Iranian tankers stranded by threat of US sanctions

  • Two Iranian oil tankers floating off the UAE for a month as US sanctions take effect
  • The build-up in Iranian oil supplies underscores the pressure that Iran is facing as Washington aims to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero

DUBAI: Two tankers carrying Iranian condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, have been floating off the UAE for about a month as demand for the oil fell ahead of US sanctions.
The tankers, carrying about 2.4 million barrels of South Pars condensate combined, were stranded after South Korea halted imports from Iran and China’s demand fell during summer, according to industry sources and shipping data.
The build-up in Iranian oil supplies underscores the pressure that Iran is facing as Washington aims to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero to force Tehran to re-negotiate a nuclear deal.
The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Felicity loaded condensate at Iran’s Assaluyeh port in early August and then set sail for Jebel Ali in the UAE, shipping and trade flows data on Thomson Reuters Eikon showed.
It arrived at the ship-to-ship transfer area off Dubai on Aug. 7 and has been anchored there since. Similarly, the Suezmax tanker Salina also loaded oil at Assaluyeh and has been circling in the same area off Dubai since Aug. 17, according to the data.
Oil processors in South Korea, Iran’s top customer for South Pars condensate, halted Iranian oil liftings in July as banks, insurance and shipping companies wound down business related to Iran before US sanctions on the country’s petroleum sector kick in on Nov. 4. China typically cuts South Pars condensate imports in the summer because of its foul smell, the sources said.
The condensate contains high levels of a sulfurous compound known as mercaptans that require additional processing by refiners to remove. “Taking a cargo to China now when China may not want it means it may lose a cargo to India,” a US-based trader said. “So the cargoes will stay in place until they need to leave on agreed delivery period.”
Emirates National Oil Company (ENOC), another buyer of Iranian condensate, has been asked by the UAE government replace Iranian supply with imports from other countries, one of the sources said.
The National Iranian Oil Co. and ENOC did not respond to requests for comment. The number of ships loaded with Iranian oil and anchored off the loading port of Kharg Island and the Souroush oil field has also risen.
Three supertankers capable of carrying 2 million barrels, the Happiness I, MT Hedy and Humanity, have floated for 10 days or more while another four have been there for less than a week. Iran’s August crude and condensate exports fell to 67.7 million barrels, the lowest since April 2017, according to data from Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecast.


UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

Updated 6 min 16 sec ago
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UK shoppers rein in spending as Brexit nears

  • Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November
  • Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU in late March

LONDON: British shoppers cut back on spending in the three months to December for the first time since last spring, adding to evidence of a consumer slowdown as Brexit approaches, data showed on Friday.
Retail sales volumes fell 0.2 percent in the fourth quarter after a 0.2 percent rise in the three months to November, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
Friday’s data chimed with other signs that consumer spending is cooling after a strong summer.
Businesses are also cutting investment before Britain’s scheduled departure from the European Union in late March, leaving the overall economy growing at a snail’s pace.
In December alone, retail sales fell 0.9 percent, recoiling after November’s Black Friday splurges, but were 3.0 percent higher than a year earlier. Both readings were below economists’ forecasts in a Reuters poll.
“A major concern for retailers will be that already cautious consumers further limit their spending in the near term at least due to the heightened uncertainties over Brexit,” economist Howard Archer from the EY ITEM Club consultancy said.
Sterling and British government bonds were little changed after the data.
The ONS said the value of sales fell for the first time in three years in the three months to December, underlining a squeeze on retailers’ profit margins as they battle for customers.
A survey last week from the British Retail Consortium showed retailers failed to increase Christmas sales for the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis a decade ago.
Supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrison missed Christmas sales forecasts though Tesco beat them. Clothing retailer Next and department store John Lewis reported a late surge in demand.
The ONS data showed a drop in sales of carpets and floor coverings, possibly reflecting a stalling housing market.
While disarray over Brexit has weighed on consumer confidence, there has been some comfort for households recently with the fastest underlying pay growth since 2008 and inflation falling to an almost two-year low of 2.1 percent.
Highlighting the easing of inflation pressures, the ONS’s measure of annual price increases in stores cooled to 0.6 percent in December from 1.3 percent in November, the smallest uptick in more than two years.