Chinese crude oil imports from Iran fell in June as expected after the end of sanction waivers that the United States granted eight Iranian oil importers last year.
According to Chinese customs data, cited by Reuters, Iran sent a bit over 208,000 bpd of crude to China, which was down from over 250,000 bpd in May while the waivers were still in effect. Yet in light of other importers’ complete suspension of Iranian crude oil imports—at least officially—the decline in Chinese imports of Iranian oil could be a temporary thing.
According to Reuters Refinitiv data, the bulk of the Iranian oil shipments to China in June were unloaded at the port of Tianjin, at 163,000 bpd. Tianjin, in northern China, along with two other ports—Jinzhou and Huizhou—are China’s three main oil hubs.
Commenting on the figures, TankerTrackers.com co-founder Samir Madani told Oilprice that the data only covered tankers operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company. However, he added there were Chinese-flagged VLCCs receiving Iranian oil in June as well. Right now, Madani added, there were two of these with their transponders switched off near Chinese ports, with delivery expected some time this week.
Beijing had stated early on it would not comply with U.S. sanctions against Iran. There have been reports of state-owned companies reducing their intake of Iranian crude because of their listed units’ exposure to the U.S. financial system and the consequent exposure to punitive action by Washington. Reuters recalls that state oil companies had officially stopped buying Iranian oil at the end of May.
Yet, there have also been reports of Iran continuing shipments of oil to China and even storing crude at Chinese ports. There is no information about the buyers of the June cargoes but if state oil players have indeed stopped buying Iranian oil, these would have to be private companies.
Earlier this month, Washington threatened to sanction China for its continued imports of Iranian crude.
“We’re going to zero [exports of Iranian crude] and … countries that don’t abide by US sanctions will face repercussions for not abiding by US sanctions,” S&P Global Platts quoted a State Department spokeswoman as saying two weeks ago. “That goes for China or any other country in the world. We expect all countries to abide by US sanctions.”