Iran ships off radar as Tehran conceals oil sales
Iran is concealing the destination of its oil sales by disabling tracking systems aboard its tanker fleet, making it difficult to assess how much crude Tehran is exporting as it seeks to counter Western sanctions aimed at cutting its oil revenues.
Most of Iran's 39-strong fleet of tankers is now "off-radar" after Tehran ordered captains in the National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) to switch off the black box transponders that are used in the shipping industry to monitor vessel movements, oil industry, trading and shipping sources said.
"Iran, helped by its customers, is trying to obfuscate as much as possible," said a senior executive at a national oil company that has done business with Iran.
And Iran may have countered a reported reduction in its oil sales in March by offering big discounts in the form of free freight, finance and insurance and generous credit terms, the sources said.
Europe's July 1 oil embargo, and U.S. and European financial sanctions against Iran's nuclear program have seen Tehran's oil sales drop to most Western destinations and drawn promises from some Asian buyers that they will cut purchases.
But cheap, covert sales may have curbed or even reversed the reduction in shipments, the sources say.
Discretion is paramount.