Iranian tankers catering to energy needs of Bashar Assad’s regime

As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces battle to keep the rebels out of the territories where the opposition have some inroads, a large part of the war-torn country’s vital energy supplies are coming from Iran.

Tehran is said to be supplying a large part of the crude that is being processed at Syria’s two state-owned refineries — the 133,000 b/d Baniyas and 107,000 b/d Homs refineries — according to trading sources.

A US Energy Information Administration analysis says that Syria’s crude production was down by 50% since March 2011 and its exports of crude oil and petroleum products have been severely restricted since 2012 as a result of sanctions against the country.

EU sanctions against Syria include a ban on imports of Syrian oil and on upstream investment in the country.

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Currently, Syrian crude production is almost non-existent, according to an official with an international oil exploration company that has an equity stake in a Syrian oil field.

“We had pulled out our field and admin staff long ago. Hardly any crude is being produced in Syria to my knowledge,” the source said.

With almost no domestic production in Syria, crude oil is being supplied by Iran, among other countries, delivered by Iranian ships to the refineries in Baniyas and Homs.

Iran is also supplying middle distillates such gasoil and heavy distillates like fuel oil for power generation in Syria with the civil war-ravaged country facing a severe shortage of refined petroleum products.

A check of the vessels using Platts ship tracking tool cFlow has shown Iranian crude and product tankers regularly bringing in oil for the war-torn nation using its port of Baniyas and Tartous.

The latest oil parcels brought in were by an Iranian tanker called the Amin, which was at Baniyas on June 28 and at Tartous on June 30.

Amin, a 158,000 dwt Suezmax tanker, owned by the UN- and US-blacklisted Irano Hind shipping company, is said to have brought a combination cargo of gasoil and fuel oil, according to sources.

In fact, Tehran has at the moment dedicated Irano Hind’s fleet of three Suezmax tankers – the 2009-built Amin, 1992-built Ramtin and 2007-built MT Tour 2 – for meeting the crude and refining product demand of the Syrians.

It would be interesting to see how the Iranians will manage the crude and refined product supply into Syria once Irano Hind, a 37-year-old joint venture between the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and Shipping Corporation of India (SCI), is dissolved.

SCI, which had a 49% stake in the joint venture, is expected to receive the Amin and the MT Tour 2 as part of the break-up.

Once these two ships go into SCI’s fleet, the Iranian entity will only have the 1992-built Ramtin in its possession. According to sources tracking Irano Hind, the ageing Ramtin is bedeviled with technical issues and may not be the ideal vessel to do the Syrian duty.

With the National Iranian Tanker Company, or NITC, ships being used for delivering Iranian crude to the doorsteps of Tehran’s customers in Asia and the Mediterranean, Iran would find it difficult to arrange vessels for transporting oil to the Syrians when SCI takes delivery of the two vessels.

However, there seems to be a few other non-Iranian tanker owners willing to ship refined products and LPG into Syria.

According to Platts cFlow some of the tankers that have called the Syrian oil port of Baniyas since March are as follows:

 Vessel Entered
 Name of Vessels
 12/6/2013
 AMIN (Crude)
 8/6/2013
 PANGAION (LPG)
 6/6/2013
 KEMEL KA (Products)
 23/5/2013
 BLACK PEARL 110 (LPG)
 17/5/2013
 SICHEM MANILA (Chemicals)
 14/5/2013
 SVEVA (Chemicals)
 7/5/2013
 SICHEM MANILA (Chemicals)
 7/5/2013
 SYN ATLAS (LPG)
 30/4/2013
 SVEVA (Chemicals)
 24/4/2013
 PATRIOTIC (Products)
 6/4/2013
 KEMALKA (Products)
 2/4/2013
 SVEVA (Chemicals)
 29/3/2013
 COSMO (Products)
 29/3/2013
 SVEVA (Chemicals)
 22/3/2013
 COSMO (Products)

 

In spite of sanctions galore against Syria and Iran, these two countries seem to reasonably adept at fending off the obstacles by managing their oil supply logistics pretty efficiently in spite of an insurance ban by the European Union on vessels trading with the two nations.

The shipping situation with Iran and Syria was aptly explained by one trade source who said: “We all know that the shipping market is passing through bad times. Business from countries like Syria and Iran is surely offering a lifeline for some shipowners.”


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