While the latest customs data from China show no imports of Iranian oil in June, data intelligence firm Kepler told Radio Farda Iran has shipped oil to the Asian economic giant.
Senior Kepler expert Homayoon Falakshahi said on July 28 that in early May the tanker Giessel with two million barrels of oil left for China and arrived at port on June 13. Falakshahi believes the oil was shipped for China’s Sinopec in lieu of Iranian debt to the company.
Iran owed $5 billion to Sinopec, which developed its Yadavaran oil field, and China’s CNPC that helped develop Azadegan gas field. Based on an existing agreement Iran is supposed to pay its debt with oil.
China has generally abided by the U.S. sanctions against Tehran and has been importing less than 100,000 barrels a day, apparently to cover Iran’s debt to the two national companies. That is a mere fraction of what Beijing used to buy form Iran before the U.S. sanctions.
It is not clear whether the tanker Giessel has offloaded its crude cargo or not, but China’s customs data do not show any oil imports from Iran. However, two more Iranian tankers carrying 3.7 million barrels of oil reached Chinese ports in July.
Kepler told Radio Farda that the tanker Stream with 1.6 million barrels and Snow with 2.1 million barrels of crude have offloaded their cargos at Chinese ports. Based on this information Iran has exported 123,000 barrels of oil daily to China.
China’s import figures show it has received a total of 12.5 million barrels of crude from Iran in first six months of the current year, for a total price of $608 million, or an average of $48 per barrel. This also means that the daily average of imports was around 69,000 barrels and in July it has jumped to 123,000.
Kepler had told Radio Farda earlier that Iran shipped an equal amount via Malaysia to China. The tactic is to ship the oil to Malaysia where documents about the origin and ownership of the oil are changed and the cargo goes to China as Malaysian oil.
Further indication that China and Iran might be using the Malaysian corridor is an 80 percent jump in Chinese oil imports from Malaysia this year compared with the first half of 2019, which this year stand at 320 barrels a day.
Reuters had also reported earlier that some of Venezuela’s oil changes ownership in Malaysia and ends up in China. Until U.S. sanctions against Iran and Venezuela came into effect in 2018, Malaysia exported only 130,000 barrels per day to China, which has now jumped to 320,000.