Iran commences exports following sanctions removal

2mn barrel cargo headed for Asia Pacific

The tanker hgad been used for storage while international sanctions were in effect.
The tanker hgad been used for storage while international sanctions were in effect.

Iran has exported its first shipment of oil following the removal of international sanctions last week. A 2 million barrel Iranian supertanker set sail for the Asia Pacific region earlier this week.

The supertanker had been storing crude offshore, according to news site Reuters. While oil analysts do not expect Iran to make a major return to the market until next year, it has been parking millions of barrels of oil on tankers for months.

The fully laden Starla, operated by Iran's top tanker group NITC, had been used for floating storage since Dec. 12, a tanker tracking source said.

"This is the first tanker to come off floating storage," the source said. "One of the scenarios is it could do an STS operation, although nothing is known at the moment," the source said, referring to ship-to-ship transfers of oil between two vessels, usually at sea.

ThomsonReuters Eikon shipping data showed the vessel sailing through the Gulf of Oman with a Singapore destination. Earlier this week the Starla was idling offshore the United Arab Emirates in an area known as Khor Fakkan, often used for STS.

It is unclear whether the estimated 2 million-barrel cargo had been sold, or if so whether the deal occurred after this week's agreement. But it is a milestone following a months-long build-up of idling crude tankers holding up to 50 million barrels of oil, equal to over a month's worth of Iran's exports.

Iran is "likely assuming that either a small increase in exports will not undermine the historic accord reached, or, that no one would notice," analysts at Macquarie wrote in a research note. However, if an increase in exports is sustained it will "weigh on near term balances."

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said last month the country was aiming to add 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) to production within two months of Western sanctions being eased, and as much as 1 million bpd in six to seven months.

The sanctions have halved Iran's shipments to as little as 1 million bpd.

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