As of May 9, there were four Iranian tankers anchored off China, capable of holding a combined 5 million barrels, with another supertanker on its way.
Iran’s oil shipments tumbled this month after the U.S. ended sanctions waivers that allowed eight governments to buy from the Persian Gulf country. So far, not a single ship has been seen leaving Iran’s oil terminals for foreign ports in tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
China, South Korea and Japan had already taken a cautious approach to the end of waivers, cutting their purchases of Iran’s oil in April. The long voyages from the Persian Gulf to northeast Asia, taking as much as a month, meant that oil lifted from Iranian terminals in April would not arrive until after the waivers had expired, leaving buyers at risk of reprisals.
The much shorter voyages to India meant that refiners there could keep buying Iranian oil until well into April and still see it arrive before May 2. As a result, the volume of crude seen leaving Iran for India in April was the most in seven months, at 400,000 barrels a day.
As of May 9, there were four Iranian tankers anchored off China, capable of holding a combined 5 million barrels, with another supertanker on its way. Two more very large crude carriers, each able to haul two million barrels, were observed at Indian ports waiting to discharge the last cargoes loaded in April.
There are some Iranian tankers that may still be hauling cargoes. No tracking signals have been received from 10 VLCCs for at least 16 days. These could have loaded Iranian oil and left the Persian Gulf, but until they reappear it is more likely that they are being used for floating storage near the country’s loading terminals.