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15 March 2019, 07:32 | Glen Norman
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The United States surprised the market in November past year by allowing eight countries to keep importing Iranian oil - in part causing Brent crude futures, the worldwide benchmark, to fall to near $50 a barrel in late December after surpassing $86 a barrel in October.
Brian Hook, the State Department's special representative on Iran, also said in remarks at an industry conference in Houston on Wednesday that Washington is pursuing its plan to bring Iranian crude exports to zero.
Earlier, the U.S. had granted significant reduction exemptions (SRE) to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey in November 2018 for a period of six months.
"Many big oil traders are very anxious about going into Iran due to Trump, and even the Chinese are trying to comply with what the Americans want", said Varzi, who is based in Britain.
Ten years ago, USA sanctions on oil from Iran and Venezuela would have significantly shaken up the market.
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The global oil market is looking for signs that Washington may extend sanctions waivers for Iran's key customers in early May.
T he United States imposed sanctions on Iran in November after abrogating a nuclear deal in a dispute over Tehran's nuclear and missile ambitions, although India and other countries were exempted from the curbs.
Days after US sanctions on Iran's oil, shipping, and insurance industries returned in early November, the Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said at a press briefing that "If Iranian tankers make calls to your ports or transit through your waterways, this comes at great risk".
Iran is on a discreet mission to procure second-hand oil tankers in order to keep exporting crude oil.
Washington in November provided waivers to eight economies that had reduced their purchases of Iranian oil, allowing them to continue buying it without incurring sanctions for six more months. Officials have also said that the oil shortage issue can be resolved by using other nations' tankers.
The administration is considering denying extension requests made by Italy, Greece and Taiwan - in part because they have not made full use of their waivers so far, one of the sources said.
Having its tankers flagged in Iran presents problems for Tehran - even if it can secure more vessels and approved buyers for its oil, shipping experts say. Since India also buys a lot of oil from Venezuela, the U.S. will struggle to convince India that it can do without much of its oil imports unless a new supplier emerges from thin air.
"India, China and Turkey - the three tough cases - will continue to negotiate with the administration and are likely to keep their waivers", one of the sources said.
Iran has been in discussions with South Korea to purchase several new super tankers, but the talks have gone nowhere as of yet.
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