Iran has been taking delivery of a large number of new oil tankers lately, seven since the start of this year, to help sustain its crude export shipments in the face of expanding western sanctions. Most of the newbuildings are part of a bloc of $1.2 billion in orders placed with Chinese and South Korean shipyards since 2009 that will result in at least 12 new supertankers.
This will boost the fleet of the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), a subsidiary of the National Iranian Oil Company, to 37 supertankers with a maximum carrying capacity of 64 million barrels. However, because of sanctions, some of these ships are being used to store rather than transport oil. NITC also operates 14 smaller tankers with 12.5 million barrels of capacity. Blacklisted by the West, NITC has used various tactics to hide its tanker operations, including changing ships’ names and flags and ship-to-ship oil transfers onto non-Iranian vessels. JS